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 the Management Assistance Group. Fun Fact: Outside of work, Ananda can usually be found playing intense board games or reading a book cover-to-cover.
Abesha Shiferaw, Fellowship Program 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.
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.
Uma Rao, Capacity Building Coach, [email protected]
Uma is a 2nd generation South Asian who grew up on the east coast and has made Seattle her home since 2004. She has spent over 15 years in the nonprofit sector; her roles have been to organize communities, serve on boards, train, and to raise funds, mostly within and for communities of color. Uma believes that strong movements include grassroots philanthropy, community-based strategies, and leadership development, and is absolutely thrilled to join Rainier Valley Corps in exact alignment with her vision! She’s a lifelong learner and is grateful for her mentors, peers, family, and community. Some of her most favorite things to do include obsessing over her dog, listening to great stories, and dancing to loud music in the mornings. Fun Fact: Uma is always on the search for Seattle’s best french fries, her opinions about this can be found on her blog.
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.
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!
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.
Meron Kasahun, Operations Support Program Manager, [email protected]
Meron is a 2nd generation Ethiopian-American and a bonafide Seattleite. She first got involved in nonprofit work at 14 when she was hired as a Youth Mentor at the former 826 Seattle. After high school, Meron moved to Pennsylvania to attend Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in Anthropology and Health Studies. Meron developed a strong interest in global development and public health. Meron moved back to Seattle after graduation and began working for the Ethiopian Community in Seattle and eventually became the Executive Director. Her experiences emphasized the importance of strategic development in nonprofits, and after having worked with RVC for a few years, she decided to join our team! Fun fact: Meron has traveled to 8 countries in the last 5 years.
Neal Capapas, Operations Support Program Manager, [email protected]
A native Chicagoan and recent transplant, Neal is excited to join the vibrant Seattle community. He believes in the importance of community-led efforts to create systems change, and is passionate about helping his peers maximize their intelligence and curiosity quotients. He most recently worked at Chicago Public Schools managing a five year Federal grant. Neal received his B.S in Economics from the University of Illinois, and his MPA from Indiana University Bloomington. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, riding his bike, watching NBA games, and eating delicious foods.
Florence Sum, Green Pathways Program Manager, [email protected]
Florence (also goes by Flo) is a native Seattleite. 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. She is a youth advocate and educator who worked with young people on leadership development, higher education access (not limited to 4-year institutions), and higher education retention and other social services for the last 8 years. Her experience in small and large nonprofit organizations led them to their graduate education and to this fellowship as a nonprofit capacity builder. Florence has an enormous capacity for liberation work at the individual, grassroots, and institutional level. She believes 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.
Noelle Evangelista, Development and Communications 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.