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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.

Angeline Thomas, Attorney

Angeline Thomas (she/her) joined Communities Rise in 2020. She has a background in public interest law, policy, and nonprofit leadership and believes that the people most impacted by an issue should be the ones leading the movement. Most recently, Angeline served as the Executive Director of Washington Appleseed, a policy-focused nonprofit that leveraged pro bono attorney support to work on a variety of social justice issues. Prior to that, Angeline led a foreclosure prevention program at her alma mater, Seattle University School of Law, and served as non-partisan policy counsel at the Washington State Senate. Angeline was a 2017 JustLead Washington Leadership Academy Fellow and has served in a range of pro bono roles within the Alliance for Equal Justice. Born out of personal experience, Angeline is also passionate about the transformative power of grief and loss and is training to become a hospital chaplain. When not supporting communities with her legal skills or serving patients, families, and staff at the hospital, Angeline loves traveling the world with her spouse and young son, listening to books on tape, writing, cooking, and yoga.

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.

Brenda Tausch Lapora, Director of Legal Services

Brenda Tausch Lapora (she/her) has a background in civil legal aid, veterans law, and assisting nonprofits with transactional matters. Brenda first started assisting low-income individuals and communities as an attorney on the Northwest Justice Project’s CLEAR legal hotline. Brenda’s previous work includes teaching and learning alongside Ethiopian law students at Haramaya University, launching a clinic for the Urban Justice Center’s Veteran Advocacy Project in New York City, and working for a brief stint as a dance company manager. She has served on the Board of Directors of six nonprofits. Brenda is also a Senior Affiliate Instructor for the University of Washington’s Communication Leadership graduate program, and was a 2017 JustLead Washington Leadership Academy Fellow. She enjoys many types of dance, collaborating with a local anti-racist white parents groups, and getting a spare moment to read fiction.

Brianna Jones, Assistant 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.

Cornelius Cambronero, Administrative Assistant

Cornelius Cambronero (he/him/his) joined Communities Rise in 2020. With a background in community organizing and youth workshop facilitation, he has spent years working with other Seattle based nonprofits such as AGE UP, Totem Star, and Arts Corps. In addition to the work Cornelius does, he also is a Creative Director in his community. Since 2016, he has released 3 demo tapes and performed for various Seattle communities; Youth Speaks Seattle, The Vera Project, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many more! Overall, his main goal through his work and art is to inspire BIPOC youth in the South Seattle community to make your passions your career.

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, Legal Services Coordinator

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.

Sarah Baker, Assistant Director of Learning and Engagement

Sarah Baker (she/her) is a graduate of North Seattle College with a BA in international business, she is considering continuing her education in Seattle with an MPA. A native Seattleite, Sarah has a breadth of experience within the local nonprofit realm. Starting as a young volunteer for organizations like Team Survivor Northwest and Jet City Improv, her passion for social justice and community building have led her to continue pursuing a career in equity and advocacy. Sarah is a firm believer in supporting grassroots organizations, communities of color, and the disenfranchised. Sarah is also on the Board of Directors for the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, the United States’ oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization. She enjoys dancing, volunteering, and cats.

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.