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Staff

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Jodi Nishioka, Executive Director

Jodi Nishioka (she/her) has worked for over 20 years on behalf of low-income communities, particularly women, children and immigrant/refugee communities. She started her career as an attorney advocating for immigrant domestic violence survivors and single mothers fighting for child support in legal aid organizations in Boston and Honolulu. Jodi continued her work on behalf of women and children within state and city governments in Hawaii and Seattle and later with grassroots nonprofit organizations. Jodi enjoys her work because it combines her legal skills with her dedication to building power in communities of color and low-income communities. Jodi is also on the Board of Directors of JustLead Washington and enjoys practicing yoga, golfing and spending time with her family.

Aimie Kawai, Development Director

Aimie Kawai (she/they) joined the team at the beginning of 2017. A Seattle native, Aimie brings a passion for local grassroots work and a background in youth development and nonprofit education. Aimie believes in the power of community, and that by investing in the strengths of our people, we can bring about a more just world. Aimie’s many years of work in nonprofit capacity-building has been strengthened by their experiences working with youth. Through coaching ultimate frisbee for ages ranging from six to eighteen, as well as time spent in middle school curriculum development, Aimie has learned to prioritize listening to the strengths of individuals and adapting the work to encourage leadership and opportunities for others.

Annie Hout, Deputy Director

Annie Hout (she/her) was born and raised in Tacoma, WA. She is a former Communities Rise and Nonprofit Assistance Center board member. Annie most recently served as Development Director at The Washington Bus, a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on civic participation of young people in Washington State. Prior to that, she spent 6 years in University Advancement at Seattle University where she also earned a Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership. Away from the office, you can find her enjoying friends, family, and food, preferably all at the same time.

Ms. Bridgette Hempstead, Capacity Building Coach

Ms. Bridgette Hempstead is the founder and Executive Director of Cierra Sisters. Bridgette’s personal, hand on coaching approach, has and is changing the lives of women across the country. Her determination to educate and empower others comes out of her own experience with breast cancer. Bridgette is a 24-year three-time breast cancer survivor and she received her diagnosis on her 35th birthday. At the time, she found no resources for African American women. Therefore, she became the solution, and Cierra Sisters, was born. Bridgette is published in several medical journal and the most recent co author in JAMA medical journal. Bridgette is an engaging and effective speaker, a songwriter, and a soul piercing singer. She is a proud mother of 3 beautiful daughters and a grandmother of 2.

Brianna Jones, Director of Capacity Building

Brianna (they/them/theirs) is an organizer and creator out of Tacoma. Brianna brings a passion for liberation, true community building, and a desire to dismantle anti-Blackness to all of the work they do. In addition to the work they do here, they act as a consultant on LGBTQ+ policy development and education for multiple organizations in the Seattle/Tacoma area. They also co-organize with The People’s Assembly in Tacoma – a grassroots organization dedicated to empowering Black youth and combating anti-Blackness. Influenced by their positionality as a Queer/Trans Black person, Brianna is deeply passionate about creating affirming and empowering spaces for QTPOC to embrace themselves – while building a society that does the same. They are also passionate about music, chicken wings, and finding new ways to joke on their siblings.

Grey Saquee, Administrative Assistant

Grey Saquee is a graduate of Reed College with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. In 2019, he was named Social Justice Excellence Fellow by Center of Life Beyond Reed. During his fellowship, Grey collaborated with Black entrepreneurs in Portland to create career development opportunities for students of color. Before joining Communities Rise in 2022, Grey was an administrative and event planning powerhouse. His accomplishments include organizing Renn Fayre, a widely attended and anticipated festival in Portland, OR. He strives to embody Black excellence and use his talents to pave a smoother road for Black generations yet to come. He is an adult and middle grade novelist, focusing primarily on fantasy and other speculative genres. 

Khyree Smith, Capacity Building Coach

Khyree Smith (he/they) is an Educator, Facilitator, and lifelong Seattleite who has worked in various roles within the Austin Foundation, OneWorld Now and Seattle University. Khyree has been fortunate to provide services for 1000s of youth and young adults throughout King County, often known commonly as “Coach Khyree”. Khyree believes in doing work “for the sake of the children”, holding the importance that any work you do should be in efforts to make a safe, happy and flourishing world for youth to grow up in, and to continue to live in as adults.

Ijeoma Unachukwu, Intern

Ijeoma Unachukwu (she/her) joined Communities Rise in 2020. Prior to joining Communities Rise, she was a student volunteer for Wayfind. She also worked in-house in a Seattle based technology company where she supported the launch of several cutting-edge technologies across the world, negotiated and drafted several agreements, and advised on privacy compliance. Ijeoma has a Master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law and Policy and is a US Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US). She has also been admitted to the Nigerian and New York bar. With her growing expertise, Ijeoma is very passionate about supporting small businesses and nonprofits in Washington State. When she is not working, you will find Ijeoma cooking and enjoy the companionship of her family.

Laura (she/her) has a background in Humanities and Education. Laura has spent time teaching an age range that spans from young children to adults in a variety of settings and internationally. An avid traveler, Laura has spent time living abroad and is trilingual. She is passionate about upstream, systemic change. She works locally to support liberation efforts.

Mary Meng, Accountant

Mary Meng (she/her) has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, and  over 10 years of non-profit accounting experiences. She is passionate about volunteering in local communities, whether that be through local elementary schools or non-profit organizations. When not working, Mary enjoys traveling, hiking, eating, and spending time with families and friends.

Y.M. Chan, Director of Financial Services

Yiu M. Chan (he/him) MBA, CPA, FCCA, is NAC’s Director of Financial Services joined the team in 2005. He has extensive accounting and auditing experience, including more than 20 years of serving nonprofit organizations in the local community. Mr. Chan received his MBA from Seattle University. He is a member of the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants and a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants of the United Kingdom.

Zach Knowlton, Operations and Database Manager

Zach Knowlton (he/him) joined Communities Rise in 2022. Originally from Syracuse, NY, he came to Seattle by way of Washington, DC, where he spent six years working in partner engagement with EarthShare and United Way of the National Capital Area, helping nonprofits raise money through workplace giving campaigns. Through this work, he saw the importance of nonprofit support organizations, and is excited to develop new skills at Communities Rise while supporting them make the Seattle area nonprofit community stronger. Outside of work you can find him exploring the city, going to a show, or watching way too much TV.