LOWELL COHORT

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ABDELAZIZ, RAJIA

Co-Founder & CEO invisaWear Technologies Corporation

Rajia is currently the co-founder and CEO of invisaWear Technologies. invisaWear creates smart jewelry and accessories that allow users to instantly alert friends, family, and police during an emergency. In college, she interned at Amazon Robotics where she was first introduced to programming wearable devices. After graduating, Rajia declined multiple prestigious job opportunities to start invisaWear. Since starting the company five years ago, invisaWear has been featured in many newspapers, news stations and magazines, they were named one of the top ten startups to watch in the Boston area, were accepted into MassChallenge (one of the top accelerators in the world), they finalized product development, and recently began shipping products.

 

In the rare occasions when Rajia’s not working, she's usually watching movies or swimming.

Rajia Abdelaziz holds a dual degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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ARUNBURG, SHANNON

General Manager, Sweet Lydia’s

 

Shannon started working for Sweet Lydia’s in early 2013.  Shannon has worked in a few different establishments as she learned about the industry and how to do everything from bread baking to cake decorating to composed desserts. She has worked in small retail bakeries and larger fine-dining restaurant groups, hoping to get well-rounded experience. She took over from the founder, Lydia, two years ago and has been growing the business ever since.    During the pandemic, Sweet Lydia’s joined forces with Mill City Cheesemongers to establish the Lowell Culinary Collaborative. Together, they created a space that celebrates local, seasonable foods and the people that curate them. At the Collaborative, her responsibilities range working as a confectioner, a dishwasher, a pastry chef, an educator, an accountant, a cashier…the list goes on. She loves to learn and grow and thoroughly enjoy the hands on nature of the food service industry! 

 

Shannon has been married to her partner, Max, for nearly four years. They live in the Pawtucketville neighborhood of Lowell with their four ‘kids’…a dog named Kona, two cats named Curry and Nutmeg, and a bearded dragon named Pico. Their lives mainly revolve around food, even when they aren’t working.

 

Shannon started as a vocational student at Shawsheen Valley Tech in the culinary shop. She received her Associate’s degree in baking and pastry, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management from Southern New Hampshire University. She has also studied abroad at Florence University of the Arts and worked at the university’s student-run restaurant and bakery.

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BANH, JOEY

Director of Programs, Lowell Plan and Owner, JBanhConsulting 

 

Joey Banh is the founder of JBanh Consulting, a consulting firm that specializes in small business startup, negotiations, leadership/management training, team building, networking, public speaking and career advancement consulting. Joey spent 15 years serving the Lowell community in a variety of ways; youth work, organizing, education, community building, non-profit program management, entrepreneurship building, small business education and leadership training. Before consulting, Joey spent time working for Lowell Public Schools, Entrepreneurship for All, Lowell Community Foundation, UTEC, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, COOL, Lowell Plan, and the City of Lowell. Joey has also been involved with the boards of organization such as, COOL, The Lowell Plan, Lowell Public Schools, CMAA, M.A.L.E.S.(UML), EParaTodos, and DIY Lowell. After his college graduation he co-founded FreeVerse! and spent time as a traveling spoken word artist, outdoor youth counselor, community organizer, youth advocate, and public-school teacher. Joey spent 4 years as the Sr. Program Director for the Boys &Girls Club of Greater Lowell and 3 years as the Senior Program Manager of EforAll (Entrepreneurship for All) Joey opened a restaurant with his brother and sister-in-law in the Acre neighborhood of Lowell, (Sizzling Kitchen).

Joey Banh was raised in Lowell, MA by immigrant parents displaced by the Vietnam war. Currently Joey is living in Leominster MA with his Fiancée, Dana and is getting married in August of 2021.

 

He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2010 with a dual bachelor’s in Management and Marketing.

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BASCOM, KESIAH

Founder/owner of OffBeet Compost

 

Kesiah is the founder/owner of OffBeet Compost and has spent the past 8 years working in the sustainable agriculture and food justice realm. Raised in a household with a large garden, she has grown up valuing food and its unifying nature. Prior to starting OffBeet Compost, she was the Community Program Manager at Mill City Grows, a food access organization in Lowell, MA and she also worked at The Food Project as Assistant Grower which deeply influenced her path.

 

Kesiah has found a home in the Merrimack Valley Region, where she has resided for the past 7 years.

 

She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Tufts University while continuing to sustainably grow her compost business in 13 different towns.

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BROWN, CHRISTA

Founder and Artistic Director of the Free Soil Arts Collective 

 

Christa Brown is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Free Soil Arts Collective, a Lowell-based non-profit theater organization with a mission to amplify and strengthen the voices of BIPOC artists. Since 2019, Free Soil has led these efforts by leading timely, educational programming, launching original creative works, and curating community conversations and events that amplify local artists of color. Free Soil is the first Company in Residence at Merrimack Repertory Theatre and operates under the fiscal sponsorship of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation. She also works as a consultant for nonprofits and companies looking for creative ways to tell stories of their impact. Christa worked with Entrepreneurship for All as a Marketing Manager for nearly 3 years, where she developed communication and storytelling strategies to enhance EforAll’s program awareness and engagement with constituents.

Originally from Haverhill, Christa has lived in Lowell since 2012. In her spare time, she enjoys acting, exploring nature, and enjoying delicious food.

 

Christa has a B.F.A. in Theatre from Longwood University, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, and is a 2020 graduate of the EforAll Lowell Business Accelerator Program. She is also a proud member of the Rho Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

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BUTKAS, BONNIE

Executive Director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre 

 

Bonnie J. Butkas is the Executive Director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre, which she co-leads with Courtney L. Sale, the Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director. She has served in senior leadership roles in fundraising and communication in higher education, regional theatres, and NYC arts organizations including York Theatre Company, TADA! Youth Theatre, Rochester Institute of Technology, Geva Theatre Center, and Bristol Valley Theatre. As a choreographer, she co-founded Lexington Dance Collective in Buffalo, NY and served as a Directing Assistant on The Lion King on Broadway.  Her professional achievements include a successful $10 million capital campaign at Geva and pivotal funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for RIT.  At MRT, she oversaw the company’s 40th Anniversary Gala breaking previous fundraising records; led MRT through a yearlong artistic director search and transition; posted three best-selling shows; secured a prestigious Barr Klarman Massachusetts Arts Initiative grant; and led sustained growth in contributed income. She teaches at Middlesex Community College and serves on the Board of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). Previously she volunteered with Girl Scouts of Western New York, YWCA of Monroe County, and co-founded Action Together, a progressive coalition of volunteers.

 

Originally from the Finger Lakes region of NY, Bonnie lives in Westford on land taken from the Pawtucket-Pennacook nations.  She spends as much time as possible in the woods and water; loves to garden, write and draw; and is an enthusiastic player of board games with her family.

 

Bonnie holds two B.A.’s from the University at Buffalo: one in Dance and one in Journalism, and is working on a Master’s in Public Policy.

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CHIEMRUOM, BORA

Executive Director of Lowell Telemedia Center

Bora Chiemruom is the Executive Director of Lowell Telemedia Center (LTC). The mission of LTC is to strengthen the City of Lowell as a community media and education center that empowers, connects, and informs all residents, businesses, and organizations in the city. Bora has over 20 years of non-profit leadership experience working in Lowell and Boston. Recently, she served as the executive director of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Asian American Commission (AAC) from 2015 to 2017, overseeing day-to-day operations and management. In January 2019, she was appointed Commissioner to the AAC by the State Auditor Suzanne Bump to serve a 3-year term (2019-2021). She is active in the community, serving on the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association board, and recently joined the Lowell Cultural Plan Steering Committee. She continues to be a passionate advocate for the Khmer Community and all Asian Americans. 

A refugee from Cambodia, Bora, and her family settled in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. She lives in Tyngsboro with her husband, Sothea, five children, and an adorable grandson, Baby Leo. She loves nature and the outdoors. Her happy place is anywhere near water and the mountains, where she can spend time with her family to go camping, fishing, clamming, and crabbing.

 

Bora graduated from Fitchburg State University with a BA in History. Graduate work in Human Side of Management from Lesley University. In 2019, she completed the Public Matters program provided by The Lowell Plan.

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ESPITIA, CAMILO

Chief Design Planner City of Lowell

 

Camilo Espitia serves as the Chief Design Planner for the City of Lowell, working with a team of design planners, an urban renewal project manager, a transportation engineer, and an environmental engineer to prepare and implement plans, projects, and strategies for the city’s development. He meets and works with businesses, neighborhood groups, and the community in general to encourage input in the city’s planning efforts and to promote involvement in city programs as a fundamental planning tool. He also manages and monitors different grant funded programs and projects at a local, state, and federal level. He helps coordinate the capital plan budgets and reports of the Department of Planning and Development and will soon start leading the update of the City’s Comprehensive Master Plan. In addition to that, Camilo is part of the city’s monument committee on the urban design seat, which helps develop design standards that contribute to cultural development in conjunction with placemaking strategies. Prior to joining the City, Camilo worked on the private sector as an urban planner in Harriman Associates in Boston and for more than 15 years as an architect and planner in Miami, New York and Boston. Locally, he is currently working with the Reach LoWELL coalition towards improving the built environment around Cambodia Town to encourage walkability and physical activity in general.

Camilo lives in Ashland with his wife and spoiled rescue dog and in his free time enjoys playing soccer and playing guitar.

Camilo graduated from University of Alabama at Birmingham with a master’s in Engineering in Sustainable Smart Cities; from Florida Atlantic University with a Professional Bachelor in Architecture; and attended Harvard University for executive education on Urban Retail Practices.

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HERNANDEZ, CECILLIO 

Lead Pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer

For the past thirty years, Cecilio has been a leader in the faith community and the non-profit sector, working as both a Minister of the Gospel and Senior Management Positions at various non-profits. He currently serves as Lead Pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer in Lowell, and as an adjunct professor at Northpoint Bible College in Haverhill. Cecilio has vast experience in non-profit management including positions as Chief Financial Officer, Director, Finance Director and Senior Property Manager for various non-profits in the Merrimack Valley with services ranging from community organizing, economic development, property management, youth development and low-income housing, and commercial space development including the use of tax credits. In addition to his work, Cecilio serves in various non-profit boards in the City of Lowell. More recently, he is serving as the board chair for Fortaleza, an organization engaged in achieving educational equity for Latinos students.

Born in Puerto Rico, at the age of seven he moved to Massachusetts and has made Lowell his home. He is married to Maria and has a son Wesley, a daughter Celis, and four grandchildren.

Cecilio holds a Doctor of Ministry degree and Master of Arts in Urban Ministries from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Southern New Hampshire University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Lowell.

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HOWARD, VANNA

State Representative for the 17th Middlesex District

Representative Vanna Howard has been a public servant for almost three decades. She was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the 17th Middlesex District in 2020 and became the first woman of Khmer (Cambodian) descent to be elected a state legislator in the United States. She is a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia, where both of her maternal grandparents, three younger siblings, and father died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975-1979. She resettled in the U.S. at age 11 after having spent more than 2 years in a Thai refugee camp. As a child refugee who spoke no English, she overcame tremendous adversity confronted with racism, physical abuse, and homelessness. She understands firsthand the challenges and struggles face by many. Since then, she met all those challenges, and beat them. She went on to earn a college degree, get married and raised her family here. For 12 years, she worked in the Office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, first as Constituent Services Representative and then as Greater Lowell Regional Director, to connect constituents to services and to address various federal issues such as immigration, housing, and small business. Prior to her work with Congresswoman Tsongas, she was employed for more than 12 years with the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office Superior Court Trial Team and the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in the Homicide Division. Then most recently as the Chief of External and Government Relations with Lowell Community Health Center. She also served on numerous non-profit boards and commissions including the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Lowell Housing Authority, Mill City Grows, Ironstone Farm, Project LEARN, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Assoc, Acre Family Childcare, the MA Asian American Commission, to name a few. In 2019, Vanna was honored by the International Institute of New England as one of the 100 honorees as the most influential advocates, trailblazers, and leaders from Lowell’s vibrant immigrant community. In 2018 she received an Unsung Hero Award from the Cambodian Mutual Association of Greater Lowell. She also received the Lowell Sun Salute to Women in Our Region in 2015 and Congressman John Joseph Moakley Award Finalist for Exemplary Public Service in 2013.

Vanna resides in downtown Lowell with her husband and two children and their dog, Buster.

 

Vanna received her education from Revere High School, Middlesex Community College, University of Massachusetts Boston and Lowell.

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HUGHES, ALISON

Assistant Vice President, Community Engagement Officer, Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union

Alison Hughes joined Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union in 2017 and serves as the Assistant Vice President - Community Engagement Officer.  Her responsibilities include developing and fostering relationships with community and nonprofit leaders to promote Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union and the We Share a Common Thread Foundation.  Additionally, Alison represents the Credit Union throughout the community by attending community events and activities supported by the Credit Union.  While developing and maintaining a positive corporate image, reputation, and awareness of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, Alison is responsible for identifying opportunities in new strategic markets to introduce or expand awareness of the Credit Union.  Alison is the driving force behind the We Share A Common Thread Foundation fundraiser. Under her leadership, Alison has continued to raise a record number of donations each year for the WSACT Foundation.  Alison prides herself on her community involvement and creating partnerships. In 2020, Alison worked with the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce to bring together over 40 local non-profits for the Team 2020 Fundraiser. Alison is heavily involved in developing new initiatives and partnerships with area nonprofits such as the “Reading with Rowdy” with UMass Lowell and On the Move, the “Smile Station” with Lowell General Hospital, and “Tales for Tails” with the Lowell Humane Society and the Greater Lowell Family YCMA.  She spearheads Jeanne D’Arc’s Small Acts Initiative, the WSACT Give-a-Click program, and Jeanne D’Arc’s robust volunteerism programs.

 

Alison resides in Dracut Massachusetts with her three children, Ryan, Elizabeth & Catherine.  She served on the Board of Selectmen for the town from 2014 to 2020 where she served as Madame Chair for two years.  Prior to her tenure on the Board, Alison was a member of the town’s Finance Committee for 6 years.

Alison graduated from George Washington University with a Bachelors in Business Administration in Marketing.  In June of 2019, Alison completed the Public Matters program through the Lowell Plan.

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KHADAR-LYONS, ZELMA

Co-Executive Director, Acre Family Child Care.

After several years as a parent with children in the care of an Acre provider and serving on the agency’s Board of Directors, in 1998 Zelma Khadar joined the Acre staff as coordinator of the Individual Development Account (IDA) program. Zelma managed the Child Care Department, overseeing educator and parent services until 2017. She became Co-Executive Director in July 2017.

Zelma serves on the board of the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership and is an Ex-Officio Member of the Lowell Plan.

 

Zlema is bilingual in English and Spanish and is a graduate of the University of Havana, Cuba. She an alumna of the BU Institute of Nonprofit Management Program class of 2010 and The Lowell Plan Public Matters class of 2020.

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KHUN LENG, SARA

Deputy District Director for the Office of Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-3)

Sara Khun Leng, is the Deputy District Director for the Office of Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-3). She serves as the Congresswoman’s liaison to federal, state, and local agencies.  She oversees the day-to-day operations of the district office and overseas the constituent services team.  She provides professional advice to constituents on casework matters.  Sara acts as the Congresswoman’s Greater Lowell community and nonprofit outreach advisor where she is responsible for proactively identifying correspondence and acknowledgement for the region.  Before transitioning to this new role with Congresswoman Trahan’s office in 2019, she had over 15 years with the City of Lowell.  For a brief period she was the Special Events Coordinator for the Cultural Affairs & Special Events office and before that she was the Director of Community Relations for the Superintendent of Police at the Lowell Police Department.

Sara is active in several nonprofit boards and committees throughout the city including, but not limited to, Mosaic Lowell Subcommittee, Lowell Community Health Center, Glory Buddhist Temple, Girls Inc., Cultural Organization of Lowell, and the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association.   Sara has been in public service since she graduated in 1998.   In addition to her fulltime employment, she is also a local entrepreneur who has a business in floral, event design and planning.  Sara continues to be an active member of her community; she participates in civic engagement and encourages others to participate in efforts that help boost and celebrate the cultural diversity of the city.  She is a proud graduate of The Lowell Plan Public Matters class of 2017.

Sara was born in Battambang, Cambodia and came to the United States in 1981 with her parents and younger brother fleeing a war-torn country.   Her family originally settled in Chicago, Illinois before moving to Lowell, MA in 1987 where she grew up and graduated from Lowell Public Schools. She continued her education at the University of MA Lowell where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1999, majoring in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Legal Studies and Psychology.  She lives in Lowell with her husband and two boys.

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MARTIN, CONNIE

Division Director for Energy and Community Resources at Community Teamwork, Inc.

Connie Martin is the Division Director for Energy and Community Resources at Community Teamwork, Inc.. Her division is responsible for annually administering over $30 million dollars of federal, state and private programming funds and implements a wide range of programs including fuel assistance, weatherization/ conservation programs, volunteer programs for over 400 Merrimack Valley senior citizens, the Entrepreneurship Center at Community Teamwork, Secure Jobs workforce development program, Mill City Mentors, Financial Literacy and Housing Consumer Education programming including rental and mortgage assistance. During her career in non-profit management, she has held positions in several different sectors including arts and culture, business advocacy, workforce development and childcare programming. In addition to her position at CTI, Ms. Martin is serving in her 22nd year on the Lowell School Committee and volunteers with several charities in the Greater Lowell area including serving on the Executive Committee for the Lowell TeleMedia Center.

Connie is a resident in Lowell and has been lucky enough to live, work and serve, all in her hometown. In her spare time she enjoys reading, theater, playing golf badly, and cooking for family and friends. (Luckily for them she is much better at cooking than she is at golf)

Ms. Martin is a graduate of St. Michael’s College in Winooski, VT and completed her M.Ed. in Education Administration at the Graduate School of Education from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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MCFADDEN, DANIELLE

President and CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce

Danielle has served as President and CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce since 2011. The GLCC represents nearly 600 local businesses and organizations and provides members with opportunities through networking, marketing, education, and advocacy. Danielle enjoys teaching GLCC members about the power of social media and digital marketing and hosting Chamber Chat radio, TV, and zooms. Prior to working for the GLCC, Danielle served various marketing roles and briefly owned her own event planning and social media consulting company. Danielle sits on over half a dozen boards in the community including Merrimack Valley Food Bank (Vice President), Greater Lowell Workforce Development Board (2nd Vice Chair) and the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE) where she serves as Immediate Past President. A strong believer in education, she sits on advisory boards for University of Massachusetts Lowell and Middlesex Community College and is an active member of the Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and the School Site Council.

Born and raised in Lowell, Danielle is a proud Lowell High School Alum (2001). Danielle and her husband, Adam, live in the Pawtucketville section of the City along with their children Zoe (8), Landry (5) and Milo (4). Danielle enjoys any activity that involves being around people and spending time in York, Maine.

 

Danielle holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Westfield State University (2005) and a Master of Arts degree in Community Social Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (2007).

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MORRISON, EILEEN

Trial Attorney, Committee for Public Counsel Services

Eileen Morrison is a public defender in Lowell, Massachusetts and an adjunct professor of Immigration Law to undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.  Previously, she was an Associate at Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston. Eileen's passion is the intersection of criminal and immigration law, particularly litigating on behalf of Cambodian Americans who arrive as refugees and face deportation because of criminal convictions. Eileen has represented three Cambodian Americans in criminal post-conviction proceedings in efforts to remedy their immigration challenges and has consulted on numerous other cases involving Cambodian Americans facing deportation.  She studied abroad in Cambodia in 2006 and has returned to Cambodia twice since.  Before law school, she worked at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) in Washington, DC, which advocates for Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese American communities.  She is conversant and literate in Khmer (Cambodian) and is on the board of directors of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell.

Eileen lives in Lowell with her husband, Mark Capansky, a Major in the Marine Corps Reserves, and their two sons.  She enjoys doing pretty much anything outdoors with her family.

 

Eileen graduated from Boston University School of Law in 2015 and completed her undergraduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.  She is also a member of the Military Spouse JD Network, an organization that connects and advocates for military spouse attorneys.

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NANDWA, RODAH

Co-founder and COO of Merrimack Autism Consultants LLC

 

Rodah Nandwa is a co-founder and COO of Merrimack Autism Consultants LLC, a healthcare service provider in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis for families impacted with autism and serving clients across several counties in Massachusetts. We provide evidenced based, 1-1 in-home services to families, by targeting increase in skills acquisition and reducing maladaptive behaviors. Rodah has had a passion for serving others from a young age. Before establishing the business, she worked for an Autism Provider in Worcester as an HR and Training Manager and oversaw client engagement and quality control of the clinical services. Rodah previously worked for the United Nations at UNICEF as an Executive Administrative Assistant to the Regional Chief Officer in Nairobi, teaching emergency preparedness to the country offices across Eastern and Southern Africa. She has collaborated with UMass Lowell department of Autism studies and Lowell Family Resource Center in a family support program. She actively participates in the annual Autism walk. 

 

Rodah is originally from Kenya, and currently resides in Dracut with her husband Eric and 2 daughters, Michelle and Jane. She loves spending time with family and is also an adrenaline junkie, enjoying roller-coaster rides at amusement parks with her children. She loves dancing, swimming and spends time challenging herself with complex jigsaw puzzles.

 

Rodah graduated from Coppin State University in Baltimore, with a BS in Computer Science. In the fall of 2019, Rodah completed the Eforall Accelerator Program in Lowell and hopes to one day become a Business mentor in the spirit of paying it forward.

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NKIMBENG, FRU

IT Professional, Lahey Hospital

Fru Nkimbeng is an IT professional at Lahey hospital. He was born in Bamenda Southern Cameroon and came to Lowell in 1985. Fru always wanted to give back to Lowell. As an African immigrant, Fru asked how he could bring Africa to Lowell. In 2000, Fru and team launched the African Cultural Association and started the first African Festival in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to bring a taste of Africa to Lowell and MA. He became President of the African Cultural Association {ACA} and coordinated the festival for 10 years. He serves on the Board of many nonprofit organizations in Lowell and volunteers his time sensitizing Lowell Police on immigrant cultures and behaviors towards the Police.

 

Fru is the first African to receive The CTI ”Local Hero Award.” He also received the Lowell Police Outstanding Service Award, The Civil Excellence Award from Greater Lowell Health Alliance, A Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Senate Official Citation and US House of Representatives Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition among many other recognitions in Lowell.

 

Fru attended the University of Lowell and graduated with a Bachelor in Economics with a minor in Computer Information Systems. Fru earned a Master of Science in MIS from Rivier University in NH, and has a graduate Management Certificate from Boston College School of Business.

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ROBINSON, LAUREN

Vice President of Marketing, Align Credit Union

 

Lauren Robinson is the Vice President of Marketing at Align Credit Union and has 20 years of financial services experience.  In her current role, she oversees the planning and execution of marketing initiatives, sponsorships, and community outreach activities in order to maximize brand awareness and drive business.  In addition to her role at Align, Lauren is involved with a number of non-profit and community organizations throughout the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, including her roles as an Associate Board Member for Project Learn, a Perkins Committee Member for Lowell High School, and an Advisory Board Member for Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill.

 

Lauren is originally from the North Shore and lives in Lynn.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to concerts, and traveling.

Lauren has a BS in Government and Communications, a MA in Communications, and an MBA with a concentration in International Business, all from Suffolk University.

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SIBANDA, NOKUTHULA

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) State Coordinator

Nokuthula (Thula) Sibanda, PhD, is the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) State Coordinator through the department of youth services. In this role she is responsible for the oversight and implementation of the JDAI initiative in Massachusetts, that seeks to improve or reimagine a juvenile justice system that is antiracist and developmentally appropriate to ensure that the right youth is in the right place for the right reasons. In her previous role she served as the Deputy Division Director of Adolescent Services for Community Teamwork. In this role she was tasked with developing alternative programming for at risk youth. Through her work with YouthBuild USA, she provided technical assistance to non-profit organizations to ensure quality youth centered programming. Dr. Sibanda describes her most important contribution to social change as her research work that focused on neighborhood risks and resources for youth returning home from detention centers in Massachusetts.

 

When she isn’t trying to impact social change, Dr. Sibanda enjoys spending time with family, friends and most importantly engaging in activities with her six god kids.

Dr. Sibanda received her PhD in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University, and a Master’s in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

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SMITH, SOPHAN

Executive Director, EforAll Lowell 

 

Sophan Smith is the executive director of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) in Lowell, MA. EforAll is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help under-represented individuals get the training and support they need to start and grow their own business. Through their free, one-year Business Accelerator programs, featuring hands-on business training and dedicated mentors, EforAll has been able to help well over 700 businesses launch.  In 2020, these businesses generated over $43M in revenue and provide 1,329 local jobs.  In this role, Sophan serves as a visionary leader to raise the profile of EforAll Lowell while strengthening relationships with organizations and leaders connected to EforAll’s mission and purpose. In addition, she develops and implements a comprehensive fundraising plan while managing the day-to-day operations. Sophan’s professional career has come full circle. In her early career journey, Sophan worked with the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center which provided business development services to entrepreneurs from ethnically and economically diverse groups within the Lowell area. She was in this role for 4 years before leaving to pursue a new career journey in Boston. For almost two decades, Sophan spent her time working with institutions such as the Boston Private Industry Council, UMass Boston, State Street Bank and Junior Achievement. Sophan currently serves on several steering committees and boards, including the Asian Community Fund, Mosaic Lowell and Launch Your Business Now at Middlesex Community College.

 

Sophan is a Khmer American, born in Cambodia at the height of the Khmer Rouge War, relocating to Lowell as a refugee with her family at the age of 2. Sophan is a self-taught baking enthusiast. She enjoys cooking traditional Khmer dishes and hosting dinner parties at her home. She resides in Dracut with her husband, Charles and their two children, Natya and Kenneth “KJ”.

Sophan is a first-generation college graduate and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

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THOMPSON, STACEY

Health Communications Manager, Lowell Community Health Center 

 

In her current role, Stacey supports and participates in the overall design of both internal and external health communications of the organization. Most specifically, she supports the outreach programs designed to combat and educate in areas of illness and health inequities. Prior to this new role, Ms. Thompson hosted webinars and workshops in the area of workforce development, employment, and training for seven years. Currently, she holds a board membership to Lowell Telemedia Company and operated as Communications Co-Lead for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consortium-Lowell.

 

Stacey lives in the Pawtucketville section of Lowell, with her family, where she is currently seeking election as the School Committee Member for District 1.  Ms. Thompson’s spare time is found writing as a playwright, reading a book, listening to music, and traveling.

Ms. Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology Pre-Law from Boston College. In addition, she is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, MBTI Certified Instructor, Certified Educator in Personal Finance, and Certified in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace.

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WHEELER, BOB

Chief Human Resources and Facilities Officer, Lowell Community Health Center 

 

Robert Wheeler is the Chief Human Resources and Facilities Officer at Lowell Community Health Center and has made healthcare his career. In his current role he oversees the development and implementation of human resources programs, policies, and services in support of the Health Center’s mission.  As facilities officer, he has the honor of having oversight of the health center’s home in a renovated historic downtown mill building. Prior to joining the Health Center, he was work at South Shore Health System in South Weymouth for 23 years serving in many roles including the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. Robert is active in the Lowell community serving on the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Advisory Committee of the Lowell Medial Assistant Day Institute.

 

Since joining Lowell Community Health Center in in 2018, Robert has moved to downtown Lowell and made it his home. He enjoys all his new community has to offer – from its rich history, architecture, cultural events, small shops and restaurants.  His son Matt – an only child – and daughter-in-law Nune live in Pasadena California and he enjoys trips to the west coast to visit them.

Robert attended the University of Massachusetts/Boston.

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WOLDEGUIORGUIS, ISA

Executive Director of The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc.  (CHH)  

 

Isa Woldeguiorguis has been the Executive Director of The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc. (CHH) for almost a decade. CHH serves victims of rape and sexual assault, and provides education and awareness-raising to eradicate sexual violence in the greater Lowell Massachusetts area for 45 years. Isa worked in the antiviolence field for 25 years prior, holding several statewide and national roles in the movement to end sexual and domestic violence.  From 2007-2010, Isa worked at the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (Jane Doe Inc.) as the Policy Director and then Membership Director.  Prior to this, she worked at the Department of Social Services (DSS) now the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Massachusetts from 1994- 2007.  She began as a domestic violence advocate then became the Director of the Massachusetts DSS Domestic Violence Unit, the first such unit in the country.  She served her final tenure as the Assistant Commissioner for Practice and Policy in 2007. Isa has served as faculty on several national initiatives and co-instructed courses on leadership and the antiviolence movement at local college and Universities, including Simons School of Social Work.  She is currently faculty as a Senior Fellow with the Institute for Non-Profit Practice. She has authored several articles on topics such as family-centered practice in child welfare, racial and ethnic disproportionality and immigration. Isa is a Board member of Women of Color Inc,  a national organization and is the co-chair and one of the founders of the Massachusetts Women of Color Network.

 

Isa has lived and/or worked in Lowell since 1994 when she first worked at the District Court on an alternative sentencing project. Since then, she felt at home.  In her spare time she likes to spend time with her partner and children, particularly at the beach.

Isa holds a BSW from the City University of NY and an M.Ed. from Cambridge college. She has received certifications from Simmons College School of Social Work  and is an alumnus of the nationally renowned social justice leadership program, Move to End Violence as a member of Cohort IV.

https://www.movetoendviolence.org/community/

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WONG, SUSU

Founder and CEO of Tomo360 

 

Susu serves as the Founder and CEO of Tomo360, a Lowell-based marketing agency that focuses on digital marketing. Their clientele includes businesses, nonprofits, higher ed, and government agencies. She and her team have developed websites and created marketing strategies to meet their clients’ needs. Susu has a unique combination of marketing, business, and technical experience that provides a well-rounded advantage for her clients. Before starting Tomo360 in 2012, Susu has worked on various companies that range from high-tech industries, healthcare, biotech, higher education to startup companies.  She was an adjunct professor at the University of Lowell, a speaker, and an instructor for the Center of Women Enterprise. In 2010, Susu co-founded Women Accelerators, a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge and Lowell that helps early-stage women in their career development with educational, mentoring, and leadership training programs.  She was a founding member and Director of the Board of the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce.  She is also a Board Member of OutBIO, the biotech industry’s largest LGBTQ professionals’ group.

 

Susu was born in Hong Kong and attended High School in Macau. She lives with her partner Julie and their two cats, Kashi and kitie Ziggy.  Susu loves being outdoors in her spare time, where she enjoys snowboarding, biking, swimming, running, and kickboxing.

Susu holds a Masters of Science in Management from Lesley University, is certified by Northeastern University in digital marketing, and certified by Georgetown University in website design.