Monday, February 26, 2024



City of hopes and dreams: These are the ‘Immigrant Leaders’ you nominated

Chinatown Night Market, 2011. June 19, 2019 Category: FeaturedLongPeople


Updated: 6/19/19, 10 p.m.; 6/21/19, 7:45 a.m.; 6/23/19, 9:29 a.m.
Who are our city’s immigrant leaders? We asked, you answered.

These are the immigrant leaders — from a variety of backgrounds and regions — you nominated. Their impact, you told us, is felt in significant ways, both personal and professional, throughout the greater Philadelphia region.

Because no list is ever complete, we will continue to add more leaders to the list throughout the month of June — our Immigrant Leaders Month (and the City’s Immigrant Heritage Month). To nominate someone, scroll to the bottom of the page and fill out the form.

1. Naw Doh

Nominated by: Melissa Fogg, cofounder of Southeast by Southeast and manager in the Porch Light department of Mural Arts Philadelphia.

Naw Doh at her citizenship ceremony in 2017. (Courtesy photo)

“I am nominating a leader from the Karen community (a refugee group from Burma in Southeast Philadelphia): Naw Doh.

Naw Doh has worked for me at Southeast by Southeast [a community arts and behavioral health center on South 8th street for immigrants and refugees] for six years and is an unsung, unassuming, hero of her community. Beyond her paid time helping us decode the complicated needs of the Karen community, she spends countless hours volunteering — teaching home language and culture classes to youth, working for her church, volunteering for local schools, and navigating complicated health and mental health cases that come her way.

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She is adored by neighborhood children and, despite not having her own, is very much a parent figure to many of them.”

2. Nary Kith

Nominated by: Aneri Pattani, health reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Lenfest Institute for Journalism fellow.

“Nary Kith was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her parents fled the war in Cambodia. Now in Philly she runs Kith’s Integrated and Targeted Human Services, an organization in the Logan neighborhood that helps Cambodian immigrants with a variety of social services, from finding housing and jobs to mental health resources.

She is working to open a clinic where all staff will be bilingual and specialize in treating members of the Cambodian diaspora.”

[Editor’s note: Read Pattani’s story about Kith’s nonprofit here.]

3. Diana Lugo Martinez

Nominated by: Daisy Romero Chavarria, policy and advocacy coordinator at AccessMatters.

Diana Lugo Martinez (left) with two other CCATE members/volunteers. (Courtesy photo)

“I would like to nominate Diana Lugo Martinez, who is the program coordinator at el Centro Cultural de Arte, Trabajo y Educación (CCATE) in Norristown.

A Latina immigrant from Mexico, Diana has been a fierce leader and organizer with students and parents at CCATE. She also leads the group of women at CCATE, ‘Las Artivistas,’ who create art as a form of social transformation.

Diana embodies all the great qualities that immigrant people bring to each community they form a part of. The creativity, commitment, and dedication that she brings to the organization and community is outstanding.”

4. Manuel Portillo

Nominated by: Ben Goebel, project associate at Children’s Literacy Initiative.

“I would like to nominate Manuel Portillo, director of community engagement at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. I believe that the Immigrant Leadership Institute that he started is a very innovative way to get immigrants to be more involved in the city. It is also a great way to build a community of immigrants from every country.

He is also always ready to help other immigrants in their different endeavours. I believe he deserves a shout out for that!”


5. Mariam M. Ibrahim

Nominated by: Robin Robinowitz, chief development officer of the Center for Literacy.

Mariam Ibrahim. (Courtesy photo)

“Mariam M. Ibrahim, 24, came to the U.S. from Egypt with her family in 2017. She enrolled in ESL classes at Center for Literacy in January 2018. An amazing, determined and kindhearted young lady, she has advanced out of Center for Literacy classes and is very active at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians’ Immigrant Leadership Institute where her team’s next event is “English is a Bridge, Not a Barrier: Increasing opportunities for immigrants in Northeast Philadelphia” (June 25, at 5:30 p.m., Northeast Regional Library).

Mariam works interpreting Arabic to English at a nonprofit and also works behind the counter at Panera Bread. She has a bachelor’s degree from Egypt and is now registered for five classes at Community College of Philadelphia.”

6. Marcos Lopez

Nominated by: Andrea Lopez, assistant professor at Temple University.

Marcos Lopez, CEO of Exude Inc. (Courtesy photo)

“I am nominating my husband, Marcos Lopez, CEO and founder of Exude Inc.

Marcos moved here when he was 4 years old. His parents moved the family from a small fishing village in Spain to secure educational opportunities for their three sons. Marcos and his brothers would be the first Lopez [family members] to graduate from high school, as well as college. He is well aware of the opportunities and challenges immigrant families face upon moving to a new country.

Marcos started his employee benefits consulting company over 20 years ago with one employee. Since then he has grown the company and now has over 40 fulltime employees. More impressive than his personal and professional success, the many awards he has received, and his well regarded reputation for integrity in the city, is his generosity and commitment to ensuring that the opportunities afforded to him are also available to other families and children.

At Exude, there are currently over 40 employees (most of them working moms) who have always been trusted to work within a flexible work structure, to work without limits to their vacation time and to feel respected and worthy. There are countless non-profit organizations across the Delaware Valley who can trust their benefits and HR consultants are honest and reliable, and who can depend on consistent financial support from Exude Inc. Their ability to pursue their missions might be very different if not for Marcos and his business philosophy and corporate culture.

We have three children who grew up with a father who is proud of his accomplishments, of his heritage, of the legacy of his parents and of the citizenship he was granted 23 years ago. Their understanding of the true values of our country, and the vital role of social justice in sustaining those values would not be as strong if not for Marcos’s commitment to ensuring that everyone around him has the opportunity to succeed as he has.”

7. Hon. Eduardo Robreno

Nominated by: Hon. Nelson Díaz, author of Not from Here, Not from There, and lawyer at Dilworth Paxon.

Born in Cuba, Eduardo Robreno is a senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the first Cuban-American to be appointed as a federal judge.

8. Nozomi Imamura

Nominated by: Aneri Pattani, health reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Lenfest Institute for Journalism fellow.

“Nozomi Imamura immigrated from Japan at 11 years old. A language misunderstanding (he didn’t know English at the time), led to him playing trumpet in the school band. Now he’s a Curtis Institute and Yale masters program graduate who is teaching band at South Philadelphia High School.

Without him, there’d be no band at the school. He wants all members of the diverse student body to feel comfortable in his classroom and bond with each other over music. He tells his students to text him and talks to them about any concerns outside of band too.”

[Editor’s note: Read Pattani’s story about Imamura here.]

9. Adriana Mitchell

Nominated by: Jazmin Tapia, immigration specialist at Sachs Law Group.

“I would like to nominate our senior attorney Adriana Mitchell.

Attorney Adriana Mitchell, Esq. is a Philadelphia immigration lawyer, a member of the Pennsylvania Bar and a native of Romania.

After a successful career as a journalist in her native Romania, Adriana came to the United States at the age of 34, after obtaining her green card through Diversity Visa Lottery. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Temple University, where she studied Broadcasting and Spanish and obtained her Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law.

She assists our clients in obtaining their green cards, citizenship, U Visas, 601 and 601A visas, and also works on asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and VAWA cases as well as representing clients in Immigration court.

Adriana is fluent in Spanish and Romanian and also speaks French. Her goal is to help immigrants understand their rights and to fulfill their American dream.”

10. Ivonne P.

Nominated by: Nora Litz, Alexandra Wolkoff, and Leah Reisman of Puentes de Salud.

“We are joyfully nominating Ivonne P., an incredible grassroots leader in South Philadelphia’s Mexican community.

Ivonne has been working as a volunteer with Puentes for nine years. She is the invisible glue in many of our community programs — an unceasing source of positivity, energy, enthusiasm, connection, and commitment. Ivonne is also a gifted community organizer, and has been critical in building strong community support networks across the Mexican community, and facilitating community members’ access to quality healthcare, education, expression, and wellness opportunities. Ivonne’s warmth is infectious — she fosters that critical sense of inclusion, welcome, and safety in everything — and everyone — she touches.

Ivonne is also a skilled and visionary artist. She has served for two years on Fleisher Art Memorial’s Día de los Muertos Calaca Flaca committee, where she participates in visioning and realizing community-based designs for the week-long celebration. She will help lead a weekly community art workshop this October to prepare materials for the altar installation and is assistant artist to the lead artist for this year’s Día de los Muertos altar project.

Additionally, for years Ivonne has been a critical contributor to organizing people and programming for Día de los Muertos at Puentes, Fleisher, and Southwark School throughout the summer and fall.

Ivonne immigrated to Philadelphia from the Mexican state of Puebla 13 years ago. She cleans houses during the day, and volunteers countless hours for Puentes, Fleisher, and Southwark on the side. Ivonne’s spirit, boundless openness and energy, and fierce commitment to her community inspire each of us on a daily basis.”

11. Heseung Song

Nominated by: Greg Offner Jr., professional speaker, coach and workshop facilitator.

“I would like to nominate Heseung Song for your ‘City of Hope’ Immigrant Leaders of Philadelphia.

Heseung likes say she was ‘made in Korea,’ raised in Baltimore, schooled in New England, and now busy being revolutionary in Philly, her adopted hometown.

As the founder and president/CEO of Mighty Engine, an award-winning creative agency, Heseung partners with our city’s finest changemakers to help them and the ideas they champion find their voice, mobilize their audiences and shake the world.

Whether it’s fighting for early and adult literacy, educational equity, trauma healing, community wellness, or economic justice, Heseung’s passion is fueled by her father’s survival of family trauma, her parents’ resilience during war-torn Korea and her own experiences as an immigrant navigating a wide range of American socio-cultures.

Not surprisingly, she also likes to say she and her colleagues show their true colors through the excellence of their work, which is based on their signature psychological, culturally-competent approach.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale University, a master’s in education from Harvard University and a doctorate in developmental psychology, also from Harvard.

The Philadelphia Business Journal has recognized Dr. Song as a Minority Business Leader, and her agency as a Top 100 Woman-Owned Business. Dr. Song also received the Yale University Presidential Commendation for Outstanding Leadership in the Service of the New Haven Community and the Korean American Women’s Leadership Conference Award. She has given various talks, most recently as a speaker at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

She currently serves as a trustee of Yale’s East Rock Institute, and sat on the boards of the Pennsylvania Economy League, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Union Benevolent Association and Mighty Writers. She is also an alum of LEADERSHIP Philadelphia and a founding member of the Greenlight Fund selection committee, as well as convener of two select business networks (The Huddle and Type Asian).

Among many Dr. Song’s other awards and recognitions […] the Asian American Chamber of Commerce awarded Mighty Engine an Outstanding Asian American Business of the Year.”


Is there an immigrant leader at your organization, or at another Philadelphia-area organization, who you think deserves a shout-out? Send us their name and your reason for nominating them, so we can add them to this list.

Nominate someone to be added to this list


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