Executive Leadership

Murad Awawdeh

Executive Director

Murad is a strategist, organizer, and advocacy expert currently serving as the Executive Director at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). The son of Palestinian immigrants, Murad has dedicated over two decades of his life fighting for low-income communities of color across the State of New York. He grew up organizing to stop dangerous and hazardous developments in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and engaging community residents to build power and bring transformational change to their neighborhoods. As the NYIC's Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Strategy he successfully led electoral, legislative, and policy campaigns at the federal, state and local levels, and mobilized hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers at demonstrations against anti-immigrant policies. As the Executive Vice President of NYIC Action, the NYIC’s sister 501(c)4 political advocacy and action organization, he has successfully led grassroots electoral campaigns to elect progressive candidates. Murad has been featured in VICE and the Huffington Post, and was honored with a U.S Congressional Recognition, and Public Service Awards from the NYS Senate and Assembly. He serves as a Trustee of the New York University Family Health Centers Board, as a member of the Justice 2020 Committee, and as Commissioner of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission.

Theodore Moore

Vice President of Policy & Programs

Theodore Moore is the Vice President of Policy & Programs at the NYIC. He brings over 15 years of non-profit and political advocacy experience, having previously worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the Policy & Innovation Division, as the National Lead Organizer with the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United), with ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, and with the Working Families Party. Theo is also a founding member of New Kings Democrats and serves as a board member of the Riders Alliance. He is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, born and raised in the East Flatbush section of the borough, and a long-suffering Mets fan. #LGM

Suvasini Patel

Vice President of Communications and Strategy

Suvasini Patel is the Vice President of Communications and Strategy at NYIC. In this role, she oversees the communications team and works to optimize processes and opportunities to ensure that organizational issues and concerns remain in the public eye. Previously, she led communications efforts at a poverty research center at New York University and at WITNESS, the international human rights group. She also served as the Deputy Director of Special Projects at journalist Bill Moyers' Public Affairs Television and as the High Impact TV Director at the PBS series, P.O.V., where she developed dozens of online and community-based campaigns with scores of national and local partners and public television stations in support of some of the most pressing social causes of our times.

Emily Patka

Vice President of Operations

Emily Patka is Vice President of Operations at the New York Immigration Coalition. She first got involved in social change work when she was 15, and over time found her niche in helping mission-driven organizations build and maintain efficient operations so they can maximize their effectiveness. She is dedicated to fostering a strong and supportive organizational culture, and to ensuring all necessary systems and resources are in place and operating smoothly so that the amazing staff and coalition members of the NYIC can focus their energy where it belongs: uniting immigrants, members, and allies so all New Yorkers can thrive. Emily has a decade of professional nonprofit experience in a variety of direct service, advocacy, administrative, and leadership roles, a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from SUNY Albany, and a Master of Science in Organizational Change Management from The New School. She is also a proud Upstate New York native, avid knitter, cross stitcher, and weightlifter, self-described cat lady, and reptile enthusiast.

Heather Varian

Vice President of Development

Heather Varian is the Vice President of Development at NYIC. Heather oversees all fundraising efforts for NYIC and NYIC Action. Most recently, she was in charge of stewardship efforts at Brooklyn College Foundation. Prior to that she was the Director of Corporate Relations at Point Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering LGBTQ students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential. Heather also oversaw all corporate and foundation giving at The Trevor Project, a national, 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide prevention service for LGBTQ youth.

A child of Brooklynites, Heather was raised outside of Philadelphia and went to college at the University of Minnesota, studying political science and women’s studies. She worked her first political campaign as a teenager, volunteering for the late Senator Paul Wellstone’s first run for Senate - and then all of his campaigns and many others afterward.

Abdullah Younus

Interim Vice President of Advocacy

Abdullah Younus is the Interim Vice President of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition. In this role, he leads the strategy and execution of the NYIC’s advocacy campaigns on the local, state and federal level. He also oversees the NYIC’s political engagement and membership teams across New York state.

Mr. Younus previously served as the Political Director at the NYIC where he oversaw the development of political strategy. Prior to that, he was the Strategic Researcher on United Auto Workers’ Columbia and Harvard graduate worker organizing campaigns where he developed pressure tactics to win recognition of the union. He has also worked on many electoral campaigns from the local to the federal level in a variety of capacities.

He has been the recipient of the NYS Assembly's Man of Service Award and has been published in various news outlets. The son of Pakistani immigrants, he serves on the board of the Arab American Association of New York and Yalla Brooklyn - two community organizations based in his native Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where he still resides and organizes. He also volunteers with the Democratic Socialists of America where he helps organize working class people fighting for economic and racial justice for a brighter future. He earned a Bachelors of Science in Statistics from George Washington University.


Catherine Alerta

Human Resources Generalist

Catherine Joy Alerta is our HR Generalist for NYIC bringing 18 years of HR experience in various aspects of human resources management and administration working for multi-national and international Fortune 500 companies based in Southeast Asia, U.S.A. and Europe. Prior to joining NYIC, she was responsible for recruitment and staffing, account management, policy development, retention, legal compliance, project implementation, conflict resolution and records management. She is excited to bring her expertise and contribute innovative recruiting programs, comprehensive employment, employee interaction policies and the creation of compliant and effective affirmative action programs. She has serviced and worked for different sectors in the fields of Telecoms, Health Care, and Information Technology. Catherine holds both a BCOM in Business Administration and an MBA in Business Management ,International Business from Ateneo Graduate School of Business located in Manila, Philippines.

Jenny Argueta

Senior Associate, Membership and Capacity Building

Jenny Argueta is the Senior Associate, Membership and Capacity Building. In her role, she supports the administration of the NYIC’s membership and financial regrants, as well as provides customer service to member organizations. Previously, Jenny served as an Americorps VISTA at the NYIC where she focused on developing Volunteer Management practices to better support the NYIC and the communities we serve. Prior to joining the NYIC, she worked for the Department of Education in France as a language assistant. Jenny emigrated from El Salvador to Los Angeles, where she graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Global Studies and French.

Cassandra Bocanegra

Manager of Organizing and Strategy, Finger Lakes

Cassandra Bocanegra is the Manager of Organizing and Strategy for the Finger Lakes. Raised in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon (Mexico), Cass immigrated with her family to Rochester, NY in 1999 and has worked and supported farmworker and immigrant rights in the Finger Lakes Region. Prior to NYIC, she worked in Outreach and Education with the Workers Justice Center of NY, visiting and supporting farmworkers across the state. Cass was a founding member of the Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigrant Justice bringing together local organizations to uplift the continued need for immigrant justice work. As a member of Kids for College, she provided mentorship to other first generation college students in the Finger Lakes community. She attended Our Lady of Mercy High School and graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a BA in International Relations and minors in Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies. Currently residing in the 19th Ward of Rochester, she takes advantage of the variety of landscapes and often wanders into the woods with her dog Noah.

Angela Castrillo-Vilches

Manager of Organizing and Strategy, Capital Region

Angela Castrillo-Vilches, Manager of Organizing and Strategy for the Capital Region, is a Puerto Rican scholar and organizer from the Greater Boston Area. Previously to her work with The NYIC, she served as Health and Safety Program assistant for the Northeast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, leading worker's rights and safety trainings to vulnerable populations in the Capital Region. Additionally, she worked as a case manager for Fondo de Acceso Para La Justicia, a non-profit that provided legal and housing accessibility to struggling families in Santurce, Puerto Rico. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts from Beloit College, and is currently working towards a graduate degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University at Albany, SUNY. Angela resides in the Capital Region with her dog, Fenway, where they often like to explore all the beautiful trails and parks Upstate NY has to offer!

Wennie Chin

Senior Director of Community and Civic Engagement

Wennie Chin is the Senior Director of Community and Civic Engagement at the NYIC. She oversees the organization's work in civic participation, electoral reform, and good government practices.

Prior to joining the New York Immigration Coalition, Wennie was a Community Organizer at the MinKwon Center for Community Action working with Asian American youths and supported the launch of APA VOICE. Wennie previously managed two State Senate races in Queens and was formerly on the board for OCA-NY Advocates, chairing their Civil Rights Committee.

Wennie received her B.A. cum laude with high honors in Politics and Asian American Studies from NYU.

Kim Corona

Communications Associate, Press and Special Projects

Kim Corona is the Communications Associate, Press and Special Projects at New York Immigration Coalition. She provides electoral support when it comes to organizing and communications. Prior to joining NYIC, she worked many electoral campaigns from the local to state level in a variety of capacities. Beyond organizing, she also holds a background in journalism from reporting on her college campus to City Hall. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she is driven to uplift and center communities that have been historically disenfranchised to fight for a just future. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Media & Communications and Creative Writing from Ursinus College.

Caterina Cundari

Senior Community Programming Associate

Caterina Cundari is the Senior Community Programming Associate within the Immigrant Services Support team. In this role, she supports the logistical needs of digital and in-person immigrant service events. Caterina is passionate about uplifting and empowering marginalized communities through legal and community assistance and reform. Previously, she interned at Community Refugee & Immigration Services within their communications and development departments. She has extensive nonprofit experience having also interned with the Women’s Public Policy Network and Alvis – Community Reentry Center for Former Offenders. She has volunteered as a mentor, ESOL tutor, and in-person conversation partner, where she created educational materials for adult learning and skill development for immigrant and refugee mothers and high school students. Caterina is from Sandusky, Ohio, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University.

Reed Dunlea

Manager of Communications, Press Secretary

Reed Dunlea is the Manager of Communications, Press Secretary at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). Prior to joining NYIC, he worked as a video journalist, photographer and writer for Rolling Stone, Circa and Vice. He previously worked as a community organizer for the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Reed has also done work in the music industry as a concert promoter, vocalist in bands, and has hosted music radio shows at WFMU in Jersey City, Newtown Radio in Brooklyn, Radio CPR in Washington, DC and WRPI in Troy, NY. He has a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Vassar College and a master's degree in journalism from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. He is a hiker, bicyclist and seeker of the best New York food spots.

Melinda Elias

Director of Healthy Communities

Melinda Elias is the Director of Healthy Communities at the NYIC. She brings her expertise in health policy making, program management and research to her role. She joined NYIC in March 2023 having previously worked as a Budget Analyst at the NYC Independent Budget Office, where she was responsible for overseeing the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City Health + Hospitals, and New York City Medicaid portfolios. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a certificate in Pre-Law: Health Law and Policy from Brandeis University and a Master of Public Health and Master of International Affairs from Mailman School of Public Health and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University

Melinda is originally from Singapore. In addition to working in the United States, Melinda has also worked in Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Nigeria, the UK, and Singapore, and has also lived and studied in Egypt, Israel, and Denmark. She loves living in New York and considers it home. She currently resides on the Upper East Side with her husband, son, and toy poodle, Herbie.

Meredith Fortin

Senior Director of Membership and Programs

Meredith Fortin is the NYIC Senior Director of Membership and Programs. Meredith oversees a program dedicated to supporting service providers in the state, which includes coordination of direct service providers in coalition (including rapid response work), management of the NYIC's training institute, and the administration of events like the NYIC's Key to the City initiative. Previously she was the Asylum Program Officer at Physicians for Human Rights, where she oversaw the development, recruitment, and training of the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Asylum Network. Before that, Meredith served as a staff attorney and then director of the Immigration Legal Program at Lutheran Social Services of New York. Meredith has represented clients before the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in a broad range of immigration matters, developed and conducted Know Your Rights programs as well as both legal and non-legal trainings for professionals, and managed community-based pro-bono immigration clinics. Meredith holds a BA from the College of William and Mary, and a JD from New York University School of Law.

C. Marlene Galaz

Director of Immigrant Rights Policy

Cynthia Marlene Galaz is the NYIC’s Director of Immigrant Rights Policy. In her role she drives policies to end state support for detention, deportation and mass incarceration. Marlene also leads the organization’s policy efforts at municipal, state, and federal levels to counter anti-immigrant policies, and strengthen immigrants’ fundamental civil rights.

Prior to joining NYIC, Marlene was Freedom for Immigrants’ Senior Policy Associate. She led the organization's legislative work to end detention in New York and other states as part of a regional strategy to win abolition nationally. She also played a key role in developing federal investment policies for community-based pilots that support immigrants rather than imprisoning them. In this role she worked with directly impacted migrants, local and national partners as well as federal government officials. She currently serves on the board of directors of IDEPSCA, a community-based group that organizes day laborers and household workers in Los Angeles. Through her work, Marlene seeks to uplift the power-building and organizing of directly impacted communities.

Marlene holds an MSc in Social Policy from the University of Oxford and a BA in Global Studies with a minor in Public Affairs from UCLA.

Silvia Gonzales

Senior Manager of Finance & Administration

Silvia is the NYIC Senior Manager of Finance & Administration. In her current role, she manages the financial health of the organization and oversees state and city contracts from budgeting to reporting. A native Peruvian, Silvia fell in love with nonprofits when she was a teenager. Inspired by a high school program Global Kids at International High School at LaGuardia Community College, Silvia quickly developed a deep passion for nonprofit and charitable work. She joined the New York Immigration Coalition as an intern in 2005 and has provided administrative support to the NYIC for over 10 years.

Silvia holds a BA in Political Science and Latin American Studies from Hunter College.

Kiwi Grady

Director of Membership & Capacity Building

Kiwi Grady is the NYIC Director of Member Services and Leadership Development. In her role, she runs leadership development and service programs such as the NYIC VISTA program, which places AmeriCorps members in service at nonprofit organizations around New York State, where they build capacity for immigrant-focused anti-poverty programs and services; and the NYIC Volunteer program, which provides opportunities for individuals to support diverse immigration services, advocacy efforts, and fundraising campaigns. She also has a leadership role in the ongoing development of the NYIC's Membership program, which works to support and engage nonprofit organizations in immigration advocacy and service campaigns, and created the New Americans Youth Leadership Corps, a leadership development and service program for first and second generation immigrant youth. Prior to working at the NYIC, Kiwi managed student leadership development programs and organizational chapters at the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and peer education-in-residence and social justice programs at New York University’s (NYU) Department of Residential Education.

Kiwi earned a bachelor’s degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the NYU Steinhardt School of Education, respectively. In her fairly limited spare time, Kiwi loves to consume speculative fiction, read comic books, obsess over theme parks, and try to understand cats (it is not working).

Kaija Groom

Senior Community Programming Associate

Kaija Groom is the Senior Community Programming Associate. In this role, she supports community resource events to promote access among immigrant communities across New York City and State. Previously Kaija served as a VISTA at the NYIC where she supported the ISS Event and Training teams. Prior to joining the NYIC, Kaija worked in events as a Gallery Assistant and supported immigrant education initiatives as a Peer Mentor at the International Rescue Committee in NYC, and as a Literacy Programs Intern at Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago. Kaija is from Brooklyn, NY, and holds a B.A. in History from Beloit College.

Hagar Hafez

Manager of Organizing and Strategy, Western New York

Hagar Hafez is the Manager of Organizing and Strategy. Hagar moved here with her family from Egypt in 2015 and graduated University at Buffalo with an Economics and Political Science BA. Prior to her work with the NYIC Hagar worked at the United way of Buffalo and Erie county establishing networks with organizations and employers to facilitate employee access to community resources, and provide employers with data driven insight on their needs. Additionally she worked with the refugee community at Journey's End Refugee Services on multiple capacities on advocacy for refugee language and health care access, education, intensive case management and socioeconomic well-being. Hagar also worked with other organizations like the Borgen project doing advocacy and mobilization work to downsize global poverty, as well as other buffalo based organizations that provide services for immigrants in the WNY area.

Lateifa Hope

Director of Operations

Lateifa Hope is the Director of Operations on the Operations team. In her role, she is the key thought partner to the Executive Director and Vice President of Operations. Lateifa manages the board & governance, staff engagement, organizational development and external relationships with key stakeholders. She leads cross- departmental strategic initiatives, facilitates special projects by building relationships across the organization. Actively promotes positive outcomes and contributes to developing a high-performing organizational culture.

Prior to joining the NYIC, she worked in a variety of industries including investment banking, philanthropy, health and human services. Lateifa received her Bachelors of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Finance from St. Francis College.

Hajra Ilyas

Immigrant Services Support Associate, Training

Hajra Ilyas is the Immigrant Services Support Associate, Training and deals with NYIC's Immigrant Concerns Training Institute. She graduated from St. John's University with a double major in Economics and Global Development & Sustainability. During her time at St. John's, she founded and served as President of the Pakistani Students Association and also served on the executive board of St. John's UNICEF chapter. Her previous work experience includes working as a teaching instructor at Kumon Math and Reading Program and interning at a law firm, Roach Bernard, PLLC. Additionally, she interned at The American Friends of Jamaica, an NGO that works to improve the lives of Jamaicans through systemic development.

Coralie Jean-François

Manager of Political Engagement

Coralie Jean-François is the Manager of Political Engagement at The New York Immigration Coalition. In this role, she will provide administrative support to the Advocacy Team with their political engagement work, which includes tracking and streamlining any and all outreach with elected and appointed government officials on the local, state and federal level. Working with the Political Director, she will manage and support reporting for lobbying and development reporting. Having immigrated to the United States, she understands the importance and the need for the work done by NYIC and is excited and honored to play her part.

Coralie graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fordham University with a Bachelors of Arts in International Political Economy and French & Francophone Studies.

Kayla Kelechian

Senior Manager of Organizing and Strategy, Central New York

Kayla was born in Houston, Texas and raised in the border city of Laredo. Early after high school, Kayla worked abroad in Southeast Asia where she has done extensive work with Karen refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border, and she successfully completed various community development projects. Moving to Syracuse at the height of refugee resettlement in 2008, Kayla has lived in the Central New York region for over a decade. She has worked as a problem solver, a community navigator for the Karen community, and participated in bilingual literacy projects for adult learners. Before becoming Senior Manager of Organizing and Strategy for Central New York, Kayla was an organizer with the Workers' Center of Central New York (NYIC Member of the Year 2019) and with its members participated in the historic passing of the Greenlight law, and Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act.

Emily Knies

Senior Director of Development

Emily Knies (she/her) is New York Immigration Coalition’s Senior Director of Development. In her role, she leads the organization’s fundraising strategy and donor engagement initiatives. With over a decade of non-profit programming and fundraising experience, Emily has focused her career on connecting people to their passions through philanthropic giving. Before joining NYIC, she worked with numerous organizations to bring people together in support of a common cause including voting access, women’s philanthropy, LGBTQ rights, and education. Emily is a strategic thinker, dedicated advocate, and unabashed bookworm. She is an alumna of the University of Washington and is based in Brooklyn, NY.

Cheng Yang "Bryan" Lee

Senior Manager of Community Engagement, Western New York

Cheng Yang "Bryan" Lee will serve as the Senior Manager of Community Engagement for Western New York. In this role, he looks forward to working with the region's growing immigrant and refugee communities to build relationships and promote integration. Previously, he was the Curator at El Museo, a nonprofit arts organization in Buffalo focusing on underserved artists and communities. Born and raised in Malaysia, Bryan is a graduate of the University at Buffalo with a BA in Anthropology and Sociology.

Francis Madi

Manager of Membership & Capacity-Building

Francis Madi is a creative organizer: writer (poet, essayist, playwright), grassroots organizer, policy advisor, podcast host, producer, and public speaker. She is a 2020 Ars Nova Emerging Leader and a 2019 National Urban Fellow. Most recently, she received a City Artist Corps award in 2021 to produce her first play, and was part of the inaugural playwriting cohort for Echoes Writers Group at Primary stages. Her non-profit advocacy and managing experience includes the New York Immigration Coalition, the Arab American Association of NY, 32BJ-SEIU, Herstory Writers Workshop, Epic Theatre Ensemble, and most recently, as an arts administrator for Ars Nova Theater, and Dance NYC.

Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar

Director of Organizing & Strategy, Upstate

Meghan is the NYIC Director of Organizing & Strategy, Upstate. Meghan is a native of Buffalo, New York. In her role, Meghan works with NYIC members and partners to understand and advocate for the complex and diverse issues that immigrants face across Upstate New York. Before coming to the NYIC, Meghan worked on Buffalo's West Side for People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo as an organizer and Community Education Specialist. Prior to her work with PUSH, Meghan worked in El Salvador for the Center for Exchange and Solidarity. In El Salvador, Meghan also contributed in various roles, researching gender inequality in organizing, coordinating international election observation, working with community health organizations, and interpreting and translating for various individuals and professionals. Meghan holds a BA from Hampshire College in Central American Studies and Popular Education.

Indira Martinez

Manager of Development, Individuals & Events

Indira Martinez (she/her) is the Manager of Development, Individuals and Events, for NYIC. In this role, she leads the department’s efforts to engage individual supporters in service of the organization’s mission. Previously, Indira worked in a variety of roles driving internal capacity building at nonprofit organizations focused on economic development, women’s rights, and global health in NYC and abroad. Indira began her career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, which ignited her passion for public service, grassroots organizing, and relationship building. Indira was born in Camuy, Puerto Rico and grew up in Georgia. She received a Master’s of Social Work and a Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University, as well as a B.A. in International Affairs from the University of Georgia. In her free time, she enjoys working in her community garden, oil painting, and sewing (badly).

Nora Melendez

Director of Community Programming

Nora Melendez is the Director of Community Programming. Nora focuses on linking community members to services providers throughout New York State through an array of community-facing events and the creation and distribution of community-facing resources. She oversees the NYIC's Events program, which has included the Key to the City and Road to Recovery initiatives. These initiatives aim to address community needs and access gaps faced by immigrant communities. Previously, Nora served in the Peace Corps, Comoros, where she worked as a Secondary Education teacher and an educational consultant to the Ministry of Education. Nora also worked as a Volunteer Coordinator for Jumpstart, a national early education organization focused on providing individualized attention to children from under-resourced communities. Nora is from Brooklyn, NY, and holds a B.A. in English from St. John's University.

Stephanie Nguy

Senior Development Associate, Institutional Giving II

Stephanie Nguy is the Senior Development Associate, Institutional Giving II for the NYIC. In this role, she supports critical departmental functions that will enable the team to optimize efficiency and grow revenue. Previously, she served as a VISTA at the NYIC on the Community Engagement team where she supported community outreach and education projects, which included leading the long-standing NYIC Know Your Rights program. Prior to joining the NYIC, she was employed as a Paralegal at an Immigration Law Firm. While working here, she was able to witness firsthand how important immigration policy is and how it can heavily impact individuals and families, sparking her interest in the field. Stephanie is from Queens, NY and graduated from Binghamton University with a B.A. in Biological Sciences.

Flavia Olivera Rubin

Communications Associate, Digital and Marketing

Flavia (she/her) is the Communications Associate in Digital and Marketing. Interested in social causes, Flavia has volunteered all over, from the Mayor’s office in Philadelphia to women’s health clinics in Jackson, MS. This is her first job in the nonprofit sector, where she will aid in increasing the reach of the NYIC. As a Peruvian-American, Flavia knows firsthand the struggles many immigrants experience in this country and wants to help spread awareness of social issues. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's in political science and a minor in environmental studies.

Cristal Pantaleon

Operations Manager

Cristal is the Operations Manager for NYIC. Cristal has worked in educational operations for over 8 years. Prior to joining NYIC she has worked in public high schools, charter middle schools, charter high schools, the NYC Department of Education, Office of Student Enrollment, and until recently the NYC Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Education. During my time in these various roles I worked to develop operational procedures, operational websites, video tutorials, and more. During my spare time I love to learn about new technology and softwares being developed and take things apart to put them back together. I am fascinated by how things work and the steps it takes to get there.

Valeria Isabel Paz Reyes

Manager of Organizing and Strategy, NYC

Valeria (she/her/ella) was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She and her family immigrated to New York City when she was 14 years old. Valeria went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she earned her B.A. in Political Science and English. During her undergraduate time, she was president of the Honor Society Pi Sigma Alpha and the Political Science Student Association. She also holds an MSW from York College.

Valeria is passionate about helping underrepresented communities. She has collaborated with different organizations to create access to services for monolingual Spanish speaker communities. She has participated in efforts to create safe spaces for Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer communities, and survivors of abuse.

Diana Rodriguez

Senior Communications Associate, Digital Campaigning

Diana is the Communications Associate, and in this role she manages social media and develops innovative digital campaigns. As a DREAMer, law, social justice, and government has always been appealing to Diana. Diana previously interned for the New York Immigration Coalition where she supported the advocacy team. She graduated from Baruch College with a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs. Diana truly enjoys classes where she can learn about communities and social problems that impact her on a daily basis. Being part of the New York State Assembly Internship Program allowed her to continue the expansion of her knowledge of public policy and the complexity of the legislative process. Diana assisted with the legislative and budget work, as well as operations, in the Albany office. A native of East Elmhurst, Queens, Diana has previously interned for Her Justice, the office of State Senator Jose Peralta, and HANAC In School Youth.  She wants to be able to inspire others and help to develop leaders in her community, making sure they know that, in spite of the challenges they face, they can accomplish what they dream. She is currently pursuing her Masters in International Affairs from Baruch College.

K'Sisay Sadiki

Senior Administrative Associate, Policy

K'Sisay Sadiki is the Senior Administrative Associate, Policy at the NYIC. In her role she provides administrative, research and logistical support to the policy department and its campaigns. Prior to joining the NYIC, K'Sisay managed Firelight Media's production office and was the Education Coordinator at Maysles Documentary Center, both non-profit community based organizations that focused on supporting emerging filmmakers. She was mentored by the late documentarian Albert Maysles and attended speaking engagements with him nationally. She holds a BA in Film Studies from Hunter College.

Liza Schwartzwald

Director of Economic Justice and Family Empowerment

Liza Schwartzwald is the Director of Economic Justice and Family Empowerment. She focuses on Early Childhood Education and Care, Adult Literacy, and Two-Generation work, and works with the Director of Education to uplift educational opportunities for immigrant families and English Language Learners in New York in a holistic and integrated way. She previously worked as a Policy and Advocacy Associate at United Neighborhood Houses, where she worked on the Families United for Learning and Literacy (FULL) family literacy initiative.

Liza holds a dual bachelors degree from Florida Atlantic University in History and Interdisciplinary Humanities, an MSW from Fordham University, and a JD from Emory University School of Law. She is barred to practice law in New York State.

Frederica Solomon

Manager of Economic Recovery and Resilience

Frederica Solomon is the Manager of Economic Recovery and Resilience at the NYIC. In this role, she supports member and partner organizations in bolstering immigrant-owned businesses in New York State as they navigate the economic impacts of COVID-19. Prior to joining NYIC, she worked as the Employment Specialist at the International Rescue Committee in New York where she guided newly-arrived refugees and asylees through employment preparation, coordinating job placements, and career advancement services to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Frederica earned her B.A. in Spanish and International Politics from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved to New York City following graduation to join the New York City CivicCorps, an AmeriCorps program, where she connected volunteers and interns to refugee programs in need of community support. She is currently pursuing an MPA in Public & Nonprofit Management & Policy at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Kim Sykes

Director of Policy Operations

Kim Sykes is the Director of Policy Operations. Kim has longstanding ties to the NYIC, first working as a Worker’s Rights Fellow in 2008 and later developing the NYIC’s first performance evaluation system. Since 2012 she has overseen the NYIC's local and statewide education policy work to foster multi-generational educational opportunity for immigrants from birth through adulthood. She ran the NYIC's Education Collaborative, steering its successful campaigns on language access and protecting students from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as improving the enrollment process. Kim expanded the NYIC’s work to encompass early childhood education policy through the Linking Immigrant Families with Early Childhood Education (LIFE) Project, which helps immigrant families access pre-k and other programs. More recently, she directed the NYIC’s rapid response to the educational crisis impacting families at the outset of the pandemic. Previously, she was Account Supervisor at Resnicow + Associates, a leading strategic communications agency. Kim holds a BA from DePauw University and an MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

Lovelie Tejada

Chief of Staff

Lovelie Tejada is the Chief of Staff at the New York Immigration Coalition where she oversees community engagement efforts in New York City and Western New York. She engages with New York's diverse communities around the organization's priorities and builds resources to support community education around emergent issues and policy changes at the various levels of government. Previously Ms. Tejada served as Congresswoman Yvette Clarke's Director of Community Outreach. Her passion for empowering typically marginalized communities has been an overarching theme throughout her career tied to her commitment to social justice. Ms. Tejada earned her BA in Political Science and Film Studies from Trinity College.

Taina Wagnac

Senior Manager of State & Local Policy

Taina Wagnac is the Senior Manager of State & Local Policy. In this role, she is tasked with overseeing NYIC policy work within the Guaranteed Civil Rights & Building Political Power program area.

Prior to joining the NYIC team, she worked as the Civic Engagement Coordinator at WE ACT for Environmental Justice Action -- the first and only Harlem-based environmental justice -- where she conducted outreach for voter registration, guided WE ACT's working groups on legislative drafting, and held several political landscape presentations on key topics including redistricting, lead poisoning prevention, the Bond Act 2022 ballot measure, and more. Moreover, she brings to the team more than eight years of expertise in policy analysis, legislative drafting and research, and contract negotiation (arbitration and mediation) having worked at the State Legislature and U.S. Congress.

Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Taina is excited to join the NYIC team to continue her work in strengthening the political power and voices of the Haitian, BIPOC, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented communities.

Abigail Williams

Development Administration Associate

Abi Williams (she/her) is the Development Administration Associate for the NYIC. She support's critical departmental functions that enable the team to optimize efficiency and grow revenue. Previously, Abi served as an AmeriCorps VISTA on the Development team, building capacity for the organization’s fundraising efforts. Abi is from Miami, Florida and graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Psychology and Social Welfare. As a daughter of immigrants, she is very passionate about the work of the NYIC and is proud to have a role in working towards the organization’s mission.

Patrick Young

Director of Organizing & Strategy, Downstate

Patrick is the Director of Organizing & Strategy, Downstate, of the New York Immigration Coalition. He served for three decades as the Program Director at CARECEN and he was the co-founder of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, which works to increase civic activism in immigrant communities.  He is Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University School of Law and in 2012 he was named Director of Hofstra's Immigration Law Clinic. He blogs on the immigration website Long Island Wins and he is the author of the history series The Immigrants’ Civil War.

Roman Zadorozhny

Senior Director of Finance

Roman Zadorozhny serves as a Director of Budget for the New York Immigration Coalition. In this role, he leads the financial management of Non-profit organization, financial budgeting and modeling, and reports design. Roman is a financial and operational professional with over 16+ years experience in budgeting, financial management and analysis, and grant management of government and foundational awards. His work style is grounded on strong work ethics, professionalism, and integrity. Before joining NYIC, he worked over a decade as a Financial Manager for the Population Council, an international research organization that delivers solutions to improve health and lives around the world. Roman holds a BS in Accounting from the Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University, Ukraine.