Vu Le, Executive Director, [email protected]
Vu is involved with this work because there is a lot of injustice in our world. He believes that the only way we can address them effectively is if we get everyone to work together. “We have amazing organizations led by communities of color, and we have a lot of talented emerging leaders of color.” He believes that we just need to support them so they can do even more awesome things.
After realizing he wanted to do community work, he got a degree but couldn’t get a job because of lack of experience. Vu was accepted into a similar program and learned a lot through it. The program kept him in the sector and allowed him to keep doing the work he loves. Vu is the former Executive Director of the Vietnamese Friendship Association.
Fun Fact: Vu is the author behind the nonprofit humor blog, Nonprofit: Absolutely Fabulous
Ananda Valenzuela, Managing Director, [email protected]
Ananda grew up in Puerto Rico and has slowly made their way across the continental United States, finally landing in Seattle to pursue his passion of doing capacity-building and leadership development with social impact organizations.
Before Rainier Valley Corps, Ananda worked at Third Sector New England, a nonprofit capacity-building firm, where she managed a consulting program and developed a fellowship program. Ananda has also held a variety of consultant, governance and activist roles within the nonprofit sector. Ananda has a B.A. in organizational development and institutional ethnography from Hampshire College, and currently serves on the board of Change Elemental (formerly Management Assistance Group).
Fun Fact: Outside of work, Ananda can usually be found playing intense board games or reading a book cover-to-cover.
Jojo Gaon, Operations Support Program Director, [email protected]
JoJo Gaon is a long time community organizer and activist who has worked in the non-profit world for most of his career with his most recent work as the Finance and Operations Director for the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbians and Gay Survivors of Abuse. A dedicated youth mentor and community builder, he helped launch two local young artist movements: Isangmahal, and Seattle Youth Speaks.
JoJo was also a co-founder of Grryo, formerly We Are Juxt, which is an international collective of photographers. JoJo (aka Brad Puet on all social platforms) is a successful self-taught artist in spoken word and photography, his award winning work has exhibited in Tehran, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Jalisco, New York and Los Angeles. He regularly contributes to: Huffington Post, and LifeWire; and has been published in the Washington Post, Photo Magazine, VICE, Slate magazine, and The Guardian-UK.
JoJo loves his family – hella! He’s been on tour with Justin Timberlake as a photographer, was on an all API team for ultimate frisbee that won 2 city championships, loves playing hold ’em poker and he’s pretty proud of his Pokemon Go pokedex collection. Gotta catch em all!
April Nishimura, Director of Capacity Building, [email protected]
April has deep experience in non-profit management and community engagement. Prior to joining Rainier Valley Corps, April was the founder and assistant director of a grassroots non-profit in South Seattle that developed the leadership of LGBTQ communities of color. She has a proven history of successfully supporting community based organizations, engaging regional and national networks and developing non-profits boards.
April holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management and a M.A. in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University, as well as a B.A. in International Studies from University of Washington.
Feeling connected to the Japanese American diaspora, April does taiko, the Japanese form of percussion and loves cooking her own version of Japanese dishes. In between workblocks, April loves walking meetings and wears ankles weights.
Chris Rhodes, Development Director, [email protected]
Originally from Seattle, Chris was first exposed to the non-profit community as a counselor for the Variety Boys & Girls Club. He continued his community involvement working with King County Executive Ron Sims as the Youth Board Member of the King County Youth and Family Commission. While attending Clark Atlanta University, he became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and of The Prince Hall Masonic Order.
Both organizations allowed for Chris to serve his new community of Atlanta where his service was specifically directed towards raising funds to support the disadvantaged areas of the city. He then relocated to Chicago, where he worked with city and state government to address various educational and environmental issues plaguing the city.
Chris is an avid fan of both Lord of the Rings and his hometown favorites, Seahawks and Mariners. He spends his spare time with his family and enjoys taking advantage of all to see in the great Northwest.
Abesha Shiferaw, Fellowship Programs Director, [email protected]
Abesha grew up all over Seattle but has been living in the Rainier Valley for the past 11 years. After returning from college in San Francisco, she became very involved in community work and volunteering here in Seattle.
Abesha is passionate about building community and empowering communities of color, in all their forms, to speak for themselves, to be at the decision-making tables, and to be the force of change for the issues and challenges that are the result of institutional and systemic failures.
Fun fact: Abesha loves art and is currently exploring painting, photography, and documentary filmmaking. Her favorite person is James Baldwin and is often caught quoting Baldwin at any point in time.
Noelle Evangelista, Development and Events Associate, [email protected]
Noelle grew up with strong Filipino roots in Cerritos, California with the occasional family visit to the Philippines. As a child of immigrant parents, Noelle understands the importance of celebrating language and culture, and its impact when people are given opportunities to share and learn with each other. She first applied this mindset while working with student grass root organizers of the Cross Cultural Center and earned her BA in Political Science at the University of California Irvine.
She is TEFL certified and spent several years teaching English in Thailand traveling Southeast Asia. In 2016, Noelle relocated to Seattle to work with OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy org, to build capacity and create sustainable practices for the English Innovations dept- an adult ELL model focused on digital storytelling, language acquisition, and community building. Noelle has a passion for racial equity and empowering others, which has lead her to work with RVC!
When she is not fighting for social justice, Noelle loves to paint, karaoke with family and friends, float in Lake Washington during the summer, visit museums, and explore everything Washington has to offer.
Kristine Maramot, Operations Support Program Manager, [email protected]
Kristine is an islander with Filipino roots, born and raised on the islands of Guam and Singapore. A Third Culture Kid at heart, she eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest to attend the University of Washington where she earned a B.A in American Ethnic Studies and a minor in Diversity. She was previously in the Rainier Valley Corps’ first cohort, placed at Filipino Community of Seattle and later at East African Community Services.
She believes in fostering leadership especially within young Filipino and Filipino Americans. Serving the community has always played a role in her life.
In her spare time, she loves to go on food adventures and collects Starbucks mugs and Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures.
Osca Opoku, Operations Associate, [email protected]
Osca is a recent graduate of Elon University where she earned BAs in International & Global Studies and Anthropology. She is passionate about issues of social justice and has performed undergraduate research on education as a catalyst for social change for refugees and families stuck in cycles of poverty. She is also passionate about supporting communities in clarifying and achieving their goals for themselves.
Having recently regained access to a functional kitchen, she is trying to make up for the lost years of dorm-living with regular culinary experimentation.
Miko Pugal, Operations Support Program Manager, [email protected]
Miko was born and raised in the South End, tracing his stomping grounds from Beacon Hill Park all the way to Othello Park. His commitment to his community is rooted in access to leadership for young folks. He’s a firm believer in the effectiveness of movement building, change work, and liberation work when young people are allowed to be apart of that process. Miko has been doing youth work for 4 years all throughout the South End primarily focusing on the intersection of sports, race, class, and sex. When he’s not breaking down the doors of systemic oppression, you can catch him in the South End coaching Ultimate Frisbee.
Roshni Sampath, Capacity Building Coach, [email protected]
Originally from South India, Roshni immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. She has lived in all four time zones in the continental United States, and has worked with nonprofits for the last 13 years in areas of fundraising, communications, human resources, and program development and delivery.
Before RVC, Roshni worked at Statewide Poverty Action Network doing communications and development to change state-level laws that perpetuate poverty in communities of color. Roshni is excited to bring her commitment to equity, capacity building, and supporting the brilliant work done by communities of color to her role at RVC.
Roshni also loves novels, good pop culture think pieces, dance parties, swimming, car karaoke, board games, and daydreaming by a sunny window.
Anbar Mahar Sheikh, Capacity Building Lead, [email protected]
Anbar has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and activism and has a deep passion for capacity building for nonprofits. Throughout her career, she focused on nonprofit management and capacity building for the American Muslim community by working with the Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, which is the largest civil rights organization for the American Muslim community, and Whitestone Foundation.
Immediately prior to joining RVC, Anbar worked as a research analyst and project manager at The Giving Practice. She is a consultant for Roadmap Consulting. Anbar holds a Masters in Public Administration with a focus on Nonprofit Management from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in International Studies from the University of California, San Diego.
Anbar also loves scrapbooking and hiking.
Florence Sum, Green Pathways Program Manager, [email protected]
Florence (also goes by Flo) was born and raised on Duwamish ancestral lands, Seattle. Their background primarily involves working with youth specifically around higher education access and retention (not limited to 4-year institutions), social service navigation, and leadership development. Her experience in small and large nonprofit organizations led them to their graduate education and to this fellowship as a nonprofit capacity builder. Florence graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in American Ethnic Studies and Communications as well as an MA in Public Administration with a focus on nonprofit management and education policy.
Florence has a deep commitment to liberation work at the individual, grassroots, and institutional level. They believe in shared leadership, racial equity, building cross-cultural, cross-generational, and cross-issue movements, and tapping into the power and agencies of communities of color.
When she is not immersed in combating systemic injustice, Florence enjoys frolicking in the mountains, playing video games, eating their way around town, and training in Muay Thai and Krav Maga.
Yecelica “YJV” Valdivia, Fellowship Programs Coordinator, [email protected]
YJV was born and raised in the Yakima Valley, occupied ancestral lands of the Yakama Nation. They moved to occupied Duwamish ancestral lands, Seattle, for college and it’s been their political home ever since.
Deeply committed to the power and agency of youth and communities of color, they envision a world of shifted power where black, indigenous, and brown folks live in dignity, connection, abundance and in right relationship with land. Much of their work has been at the intersections of personal and societal healing and transformation. They have a background in anti-racism, youth centered political education, generative somatics and trauma informed practices, and prevention work.
YJV’s long-term vision is to build a radical childcare center for and with families of color.
They also have an affinity for tattoos, reconnecting with ancestral medicine, and dancing.