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.

Alana Pilar Cantillo

Vice President of Advocacy

Alana Pilar Cantillo is the Vice President of Advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition. In this role, She leads the planning, implementation, and execution of the NYIC’s top campaigns. She also provides strategic vision and oversight of the organizations federal, state, and local agendas as well as member and political engagement across the state.

Ms. Cantillo previously served as the Director of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus where she coordinated 18 Council offices to advance an agenda that promotes a more just and equal New York. Through legislation, funding of social service programs and advocacy, Alana led multiple city-wide efforts that addressed inequalities in education, employment, housing and criminal justice.

Emigrated from Colombia and raised in New Jersey, Ms. Cantillo earned a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from Rutgers University and a MS in Bilingual Special Education from City College, City University of New York. She is a proud alumna of the New York City Teaching Fellows Program and Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs. Alana has been recognized in City and State Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars list and is the recipient of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Community Engagement Award. Alana volunteers with multiple mentorship programs and is a member of the Public Leadership Education Network’s Board of Directors, Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center’s Junior Board and New York State Archives Partnership Trust Advisory Committee.

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

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.


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

Member and Capacity Building Associate

Jenny Argueta is the Member and Capacity Building Associate. 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.

Kai Bent

Director of Human Resources

Kai N. Bent, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Director of Human Resources at New York Immigration Coalition. Kai leads the human resources function of NYIC including strategic planning, organizational development, recruitment, employee relations, training, performance management, compliance, and compensation. Kai comes with over 16 years of experience in human resources in non-profit, healthcare, manufacturer of consumer goods, finance, and media industries. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Pace University and received her master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology at Alliant International University in Los Angeles, California. Kai also has her PHR and SHRM-CP certifications. She is the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and was raised in the northeast section of the Bronx.

Angela Castrillo-Vilches

Manager of Member Engagement, Capital Region

Angela Castrillo-Vilches, Manager of Member Engagement 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

Director of Civic Engagement

Wennie Chin is the Director of 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.

Varvara Chinenova

Ukrainian Service Coordination Fellow

Varvara (she/her/hers) is a program officer passionate about women's rights, democratic values, and international affairs. She is currently serving as a Ukrainian Service Coordination Fellow at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), where she manages a large service coordination project focused on the Ukrainian population in New York City. This includes event planning and logistics, subcontract management, and service coordination.
In her previous role as a program fellow at Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia, Varvara planned and managed various internationally oriented virtual and in-person programs, including the International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. Department of State's premier professional exchange program. Before that Varvara worked as a digital marketing analyst, an independent interpreter and translator, and a research and teaching assistant in Sociology. She has an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (Germany), a B.A. in European Studies with a minor in Gender Studies from the University of Bremen (Germany), and an M.A. equivalent diploma in Linguistics and Translation from Orel State University (Russia). Varvara lived, studied, and worked in several countries across the globe including Russia, Nepal, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the U.S; she is fluent in Russian, English, French, and German, currently learning Spanish.

Varvara is pronounced as in Barbara with "Vs" instead of "Bs" and an emphasis on the second syllable: v-ah-r-v-AH-r-ah

Kim Corona

Organizing and Communications Associate

Kim Corona is the Organizing and Communications Associate at New York Immigration Coalition Action. 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

Immigrant Services Support Fellow

Caterina Cundari is the Immigrant Services Support Fellow 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.

Chloe Dennison

Communications Associate

Chloe is the Communications Associate, where she handles the regional press work for the NYIC. Prior to joining NYIC, she worked as a Research Fellow for Democracy North Carolina, where she was responsible for researching new election administration reforms in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond policy, she also helped lead archival research for the League of Women Voters chapter in New York City, developing comprehensive records of their early history for their centennial. She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History.

Jennifer Diaz

Manager of Community Engagement

Jennifer Diaz is the Manager of Community Engagement at the New York Immigration Coalition. She graduated from Pace University with a B.A. in Political Science and Peace and Justice Studies. Following her graduation, she taught English abroad in Seoul, South Korea, and tutored North Korean refugees. Before this role, Jennifer was most recently the Director of Constituent Services to Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, where she worked directly with the constituents of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst in Queens. Her many experiences working with different immigrant populations drove her to pursue a Masters in International Affairs at Baruch College. She is driven by her desire to help others and wants to help uplift them so their needs are addressed and their goals achieved.

Reed Dunlea

Press Secretary and Communications Manager

Reed Dunlea is the Press Secretary / Communications Manager 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.

Silvia Gonzales

Manager of Administration & Finance

Silvia is the NYIC Manager of Administration and Finance. 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

Immigrant Services Support, Events Associate

Kaija Groom is the Immigrant Services Support, Events 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.

Hajra Ilyas

Training Associate

Hajra Ilyas is the Training Associate 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.

Dejia James

Manager of Member Engagement, Western New York

Dejia James is the Manager of Member Engagement for Western New York. Dejia is a native Buffalonian whose family emigrated to the city from Havana, Cuba in the 1960's. As a black feminist and African American/Afro-Cuban, she is dedicated to advocating for underrepresented communities and creating autonomous spaces for constructive support of minorities, immigrants and refugee populations from developing countries. She received her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a minor in Spanish from SUNY Geneseo, where she completed her Spanish studies in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to the NYIC, Dejia worked closely on refugee resettlement and child care small business training through a program developed by Childcare Resource Network and Journey's End Refugee Services as well as coordinated for racial equity initiatives at a local foundation.

Coralie Jean-François

Political Associate

Coralie Jean-François is the Political Associate 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.

Emily Jones

Senior Development Associate, Individual Giving & Events

Emily is the Senior Development Associate for Individual Giving and Events at the NYIC. In this position, she cultivates relationships with NYIC's individual donors, corporate sponsors, and other prospects. She also supports the planning and execution of various fundraising events throughout the year, including the annual gala. Before the NYIC, Emily worked in development at the Immigrant Welcome Center and worked as an Urban Leaders Fellowship policy fellow at the Office of the Mayor in Indianapolis. She holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Emily is extremely passionate about issues of power and social justice, racial reconciliation, and creating welcoming communities for her immigrant and refugee neighbors. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with friends and family, play pool, analyze movies, read nonfiction, and venture out with her partner into the new city they call home.

Kayla Kelechian

Manager of Member Engagement, 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 Manager of Member Engagement 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.

Ivan Larios

Manager of Member Engagement, Long Island

Ivan Larios was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He attended San Francisco de Asis school.  Ivan moved with his parents to Queens, New York.  Ivan continued his education at I.S. 53 and Beach Channel High School, both in the county of Queens. After his graduation, Ivan attended St. John’s University and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Administration and Political Science.

Ivan’s interest in immigration influenced him to work for the Central American Refugee Center where he served the immigrant community drawing on the roots of his own immigrant experience. Ivan’s personal commitment and compassion enable him to assist hundreds of new American citizens and advocate for the immigrants of Long Island, New York.

Cheng Yang "Bryan" Lee

Manager of Community Engagement, Western New York

Cheng Yang "Bryan" Lee will serve as the 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

Upstate Advocacy Director

Meghan is the NYIC Upstate Advocacy Director. 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.

Talia Markowitz

Senior Manager of Immigrant Services Support, Training

Talia oversees NYIC’s Immigrant Concerns Training Institute (ICTI), which equips service providers across New York to meet the needs of the immigrant communities they serve. Talia additionally supports NYIC to build training programs implementing policy and advocacy priorities.

Talia began her career as an organizing intern for Make the Road NY and went on to work as an immigration paralegal at a law firm in Boston. She later worked as a researcher for projects in El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica, evaluating mental health, child protection and other public health initiatives. Most recently, Talia led HealthRight International’s Human Rights Clinic, overseeing a training, volunteer management and case referral program providing expert evidence for asylum seekers in the NY metro area. Talia holds a BA in Political Science from Skidmore College and an MPH in Forced Migration from Columbia University. She speaks Portuguese and Spanish, and also works as a Zumba Instructor.

Nora Melendez

Manager of Community Programming

Nora Melendez is the Manager 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.

Sareeta Nethersole

Senior Manager of Development, Institutional Giving

Sareeta Nethersole (she/her) is the NYIC's Senior Manager of Development, Institutional Giving. In her role, she cultivates and maintains relationships with the New York Immigration Coalition's foundational, corporate, and government partners. Prior to joining the NYIC, Sareeta worked in fundraising and project management at a large-scale foundation focused on medical education. She received her Master's degree in International Politics at Newcastle University while also playing volleyball in the England National Volleyball League. Sareeta is passionate about creating opportunities for diverse and often marginalized communities. She has worked with several non-profit organizations to create scholarship opportunities for youth athletes hoping to pursue higher education while engaging in the activities that they love.

Born and raised in New York, Sareeta is a dedicated advocate, avid reader, and committed community member. She is excited to join such a dynamic team of individuals focused on building the political power of underserved immigrant communities within the state.

Stephanie Nguy

Senior Development Associate, Institutional Giving

Stephanie Nguy is the Senior Development Associate, Institutional Giving 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.

Andrea Ortiz

Senior Manager of Education Policy

Andrea A. Ortiz is the Senior Manager of Education Policy for K-12. She engages educational stakeholders and collaboratives to develop robust policies that ensure the academic success of Multilingual Learners in New York public schools. She is a committed advocate for immigrant rights, with over twelve years of experience organizing with undocumented youth, families, and allies. Before joining NYIC, she worked with state education officials to develop professional development curricula and consulted with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education to improve academic enrichment programs serving youth of color. Before moving to New York, she led a high-school based program in Austin, Texas that offered students a constructive alternative to punitive disciplinary actions with trauma-informed and restorative practices. While living in Florida, she was a board member of the Florida Immigrant Coalition and a leader for Students Working for Equal Rights. She is also passionate about ending the criminalization and detention of communities of color and advancing worker rights for farmworkers and day laborers. She holds an M.A. in education policy with a specialization in law from Columbia University's Teachers College and a B.A. in philosophy and gender studies from New College of Florida.

Cristal Pantaleon

Senior Operations Associate

Cristal is the Senior Operations Associate 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.

Suvasini Patel

Senior Director of Communications

Suvasini Patel is the Senior Director of Communications 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.

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 Policy Associate

K'Sisay Sadiki is the Senior Policy Associate 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

Senior Manager of Economic Justice and Family Empowerment

Liza Schwartzwald is the NYIC Senior Manager 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 Resiliency

Frederica Solomon is the Manager of Economic Recovery and Resiliency 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 Education Policy

Kim Sykes is the Director of Education Policy. 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

Director of Community Engagement

Lovelie Tejada is the Director of Community Engagement 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 Associate

Abi Williams (she/her) is the Development 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

Downstate Advocacy Director

Patrick is the Downstate Advocacy Director 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.

Abdullah Younus

Senior Director of Advocacy

Abdullah Younus is the Senior Director 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.

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.