Northwest Asian Weekly
Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW) organizes a tri-yearly networking luncheon, “Women of Color Empowered,” a series of events that honors the accomplishments of women leaders. On Thursday, Feb. 4, NWAW’s honorees will come together to share a bit of their knowledge to a crowd at China Harbor Restaurant. This quarter’s theme is “women as bridge builders,” celebrating those who have made divides between diverse spaces smaller. The event will be emcee’d by Margo Myers, of Margo Myers Communications.
Cofounder and board president, Washington Indian Civil Rights Commission
Deborah Cano-Lee has worked for the Nisqually Tribe for 10 years and is currently the program director for its Head Start program.
She served four terms (2004–2013) as commissioner for the Washington State Human Rights Commission, the state agency that enforces the Washington state laws against discrimination. Before her state appointment, Cano-Lee served as chair of the Seattle Civil Rights Commission. Cano-Lee currently resides in Olympia with her husband of 30 years and their two kids in college.
Cofounder, Viva la Musica Club
Maria Durham, born in Galicia, fled from Spain with her family, settling in Argentina. As a child she developed her two lifelong passions, music and nursing.
Due to limited education opportunities, Durham traveled back to Europe where she became a student nurse. In 1988 she graduated from the Harvard University School of Education with a master’s. While working as a director of interpreter services at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center she developed a ground breaking program which became known throughout the country.
After ‘retiring’ Durham founded Viva la Musica Club in May 2003. Its mission has been to connect Spanish speakers to relevant orchestral performing groups.
Executive director, Refugee Women’s Alliance
As executive director of Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), Mahnaz Esetu currently oversees an organization that operates from 10 sites in King County with the capability of speaking 37 different languages and dialects.
Prior to ReWA, Esetu was vice president for real estate lending for KeyBank, where she led community development lending including affordable housing in Washington state. She is the past co-chair of the University of Washington Business and Economic Development Center Advisory Board, board member of Community Capital Development, and a past board member of Tacoma Affordable Housing Consortium.
Principal lecturer, University of Washington management department
Christina Fong is a principal lecturer in the management and organization department at the Michael G. Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Behavior from Stanford University in 2003.
Her research and consulting interests include the study of emotions in the workplace, psychological conflict at work, impression management, power and politics within organizations, and management education. Her research has been covered in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, among others. She has also been the recipient of several teaching awards, including the 2011 Distinguished Teaching Award, a university wide award recognizing “extraordinary success of a nominee’s superior ability in the teaching/learning process.”
Chief executive officer, Senior Services
Paula Houston is currently the chief executive officer of Senior Services, the largest nonprofit in Washington state providing services and programs to seniors and those who care for them. Previously, she was executive director for the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA. Houston was clinic manager at Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center, and has worked in Seattle and King County’s public health divisions.
Additionally, she was a business entrepreneur and owned her own fitness and wellness center. Houston is currently a member of Seattle Rotary #4, sits on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association, and is a member of the Seattle Art Museum’s Education and Community Engagement Committee.
Policy and program specialist, Office of Immigrants and Refugees
Maha Jahshan is a long time Washingtonian who holds a Master of Arts in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization with an emphasis on Cross Cultural Communications from the University of Washington. She has vast experience in working on complex policy issues with immigrant and refugee communities at the federal, state and local level. She is fluent in Arabic and has conducted research in the Middle East. Prior to being a program and policy specialist at the Office of the Immigrant and Refugee Affairs at the City of Seattle, she was the senior program manager at OneAmerica, Washington state’s largest immigrant rights organization.
Jahshan is a Seattle Globalist columnist and a 2010 United Way King County Project Lead Graduate. She also served on the Women’s Commission in the City of Seattle and taught at University of Washington, Seattle University and Middlebury College.
Agency recruiter, State Farm Insurance
Tonya Knox is an agency recruiter with State Farm Insurance, seeking out leaders, entrepreneurs, and those driven to make a difference in their communities with business ownership. Knox is passionate about youth and underserved families. She attends Mount Zion Baptist Church where she is an usher and volunteers regularly.
She graduated with honors from North Carolina A&T State University. Knox resides in Bothell and is the proud mother of her son, Stedman Knox, who attends Western Washington University as a pre-med student.
Former vice president of multicultural club, Jackson High School
Camilla Mejia graduated from Jackson High School in Mill Creek last year, where she formed a support group for Latino students to work on leadership. As vice president of the school’s multicultural club, Mejia noticed that while the diversity at Jackson was increasing, Latino student involvement was stagnant. Mejia was student representative on the Minority Achievers Program board for Snohomish County YMCA. She was also a student representative on the Equity and Access Advisory Council for the Everett School District.
Senior executive project manager, King County
Leslie Harper-Miles earned a master’s in public administration from the University of Washington. Her public sector career spans more than 25 years. Her extensive experience includes work in finance, public policy, strategic planning, and construction management.
She has held senior management positions in King County government and has managed over $700 million in capital projects, including Harborview Medical Center’s campus expansion and master plans for both the district and superior court systems. A proud wife and mother to three, she is also a member of Mt Zion Baptist Church and volunteers with numerous community organizations including her own family-sponsored homeless feeding program.
Executive director, Hamilton Scholars
Anne Nguyen is a graduate of the Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway and attended Wellesley College.
After several years on Wall Street, she returned to Seattle to work with low-income youth at Hamilton Scholars. As its executive director, Nguyen conceived, developed and implemented Hamilton Scholars’ first major program expansion in eight years.
She led the organization in its strategic planning process, mapping out its organizational, fundraising and programmatic goals for next three years.
Outside of work, Anne is involved with several nonprofits. From 2011 to 2013, she served as the young alumnae representative for the Wellesley College Washington State Board and remains a boardmember-at-large, helping with admissions.
Founding executive director, Casa Latina
Hilary Stern is the founding executive director of Casa Latina, an organization she will be step down from next month, after 22 years.
Stern founded Casa Latina in the early 1990s to organize Latino day laborers and activists.
Prior to Casa Latina, Stern was director of the Seattle Education Center for MetroCenter YMCA, working with inner-city youth. Stern was also lecturer and administrative coordinator of the ESL department at the University of Washington.
Evelyn Yenson is a third-generation South African Chinese. She earned her BA from the College of New Rochelle, NY and her MA from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Yenson was an urban planner in New York and Seattle. Her experience includes being the director of the Vancouver EXPO 1986, director of the Washington State Lottery and the Department of Licensing and the director of the Seattle Chinese Garden. She was also the vice president of international sales and marketing for Scientific Games. Evelyn recently retired as the Advancement Director for the Seattle Colleges. She is a former member and chair of the Washington State Ethics board. Currently Yenson is on the board of the Pike Place Market Foundation and Governor Inslee recently appointed her to the Washington State Pardons and Clemency Board.
Board of directors, Salaam Cultural Museum
In addition to her work with the Salaam Cultural Museum, Jordan-native Rita
Zawaideh is owner and founder of Caravan-Sera Tours, formerly a travel agency to the Middle East and North Africa, now a tour company. As violence and war in the area increased, she used her tour resources to aid in humanitarian efforts. She has led routine medical missions to the Middle East, earning her numerous humanitarian awards.
Zawaideh earned a degree in West African architectural history from the University of Washington before she spent almost a decade teaching English in the Middle East.
Multicultural engagement director, Swedish Medical Center
Wendy Zheng works for Swedish Health Services/Providence Health & Services as multicultural engagement director on cultural responsive care initiatives. Prior to Swedish, she worked for the American Heart Association as Northwest regional director of multicultural initiatives and health equity. Before moving to Seattle, Zheng lived, worked, studied, and traveled in California, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. She enjoys traveling and learning about people, food, culture, advocacy,
diversity/inclusion, multiculturalism, and service projects. (end)
Women of Color Empowered will be held at China Harbor Restaurant on Feb. 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 pre-paid or $50 at the door. For more information or to buy tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-223-0623.
Staff cam be reached at email@example.com.