10:15-11:15am || Giving Back to the Community Presentation

Moderator: Heidi Lee (C’19)

From South Central Los Angeles, CA, Heidi Lee is currently a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Fine Arts with a concentration in Product Design and a minor in Consumer Psychology. She is actively involved with the Netter Center at Penn and works with local high school students in West Philadelphia. In 2015, Heidi participated in the Penn Program for Public Service where she conducted research on peer-supported academic networks and their impact on student success at the high school level. Heidi has also served as a teaching assistant for multiple Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses, which focuses on community engagement through the classroom. As a growing student leader, student serves on the board of “Seven | Eight,” a first-generation, low-income support group for Asian American students and mentors first-year student through the PEER Mentoring Program.

Dr. Holly Link

Holly Link completed her PhD in Educational Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. A former bilingual teacher, Link now directs educational programming and research at the Centro de Cultura, Arte, Trabajo y Educación (CCATE) in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She is also an educational consultant in the fields of English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education. Link teaches at Temple University, the Greenfield Intercultural Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and at CCATE. At CCATE, she is developing a participatory research center for young people and adults through which they can promote social transformation and inform public policy. Her research on Latinx students and schooling has been published in the Harvard Educational Review, the American Educational Research Journal, and the Journal of Latinos and Education. Link’s research interests include the communicative practices and schooling experiences of young people from minoritized backgrounds. More broadly she is interested in collaborative, ethnographic and community-based research methods.

Thoai Nguyen

Thoai Nguyen, CEO of SEAMAAC for the past 13 years, is a first generation Vietnamese refugee who came to the United States in 1975. Thoai is a long time community organizer and a passionate advocate for the civil and human rights of all people. Thoai has worked on advocacy, community organizing and community development projects to address the economic and social inequities in many communities across the United States and throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and North America including Mexico. Thoai’s work has included programs with Native American and indigenous peoples’ rights, LGBTQ communities, immigrant workers’ rights including taxi drivers and migrant farm workers, gang truce, police brutality, Rroma (Gypsy) civil rights in Eastern and Central Europe.

Thoai was a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship in 1988, and the Charles Bannerman Fellowship in 1995. He was a 2008 recipient of Harvard Business School Asian American Alumni Association’s scholarship to Harvard Business School’s Strategic Management Program, and have been recently honored by Bread & Roses, Penn Asian Senior Services (PASSi), and 6ABC News for his anti-poverty and social justice work.

Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson is an author and educator based in Philadelphia. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and launching a successful career in Information Technology at the university, Peterson transitioned to student affairs, becoming the director of Makuu, Penn’s Black Cultural Center, in 2011. He earned his Masters in Secondary Teacher Education and Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society from Penn’s Graduate School of Education. In addition to writing about college completion, Peterson is also a co-founder of Ase Academy, an academic and cultural enrichment program for youth in Philadelphia. He also consults and works with other nonprofits and youth empowerment programs to create curriculum, program models, strategic plans, collaboration opportunities, annual campaigns, and assessment strategies. Peterson has developed and taught or co-taught a number of courses at Penn including Topics in Africana Studies: The History of Women and Men of African Descent at the University of Pennsylvania; Culturally Relevant Teaching, Learning, and Intervention; and Education in American Culture. He has also created and led numerous seminars and course modules for Ase Academy and other partners, and has facilitated a number of student leadership programs including the Paul Robeson and Anna Julia Cooper Scholars Program and BMU (Black Men United). His research interests include social entrepreneurship, race in higher education, student engagement and success, culturally relevant education, and community empowerment. Peterson is also the author of two published works of fiction and was a former staff writer at one of the longest-running hip-hop culture websites, Okayplayer.com. He enjoys sports and fitness, music, great books, and cookouts. He resides in Philadelphia with his wife and their five children.

Oni Richards

Oni Richards currently serves as the Executive Director of the African Family Health Organization (AFAHO) where she is responsible for leading the development, implementation and management of health and human service programs for African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees in the greater Philadelphia area. She brings more than eight years of public health program development and management experience to the position. Under her leadership, AFAHO’s focus has expanded to holistically serve the needs of the target population with community-based health, human service and educational programming. Oni previously served as a consultant in the Africa Program of the American Friends Service Committee where she organized advocacy activities related to health, social and economic justice issues in Africa; with a particular focus on developing campaigns to impact U.S. congressional decisions on debt cancellation for African nations. She also spent time in Durban, South Africa creating programs for orphans impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Oni was selected as a Visionary Emerging Leader by the Valentine Foundation and awarded a scholarship to attend the Non-Profit Executive Leadership Institute at Bryn Mawr College where she further sharpened her administrative and management skills. She was also given the 2012 Echoes of Africa Community Service Award by the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs and a Citation by the City Council of Philadelphia for her work and dedication to the community she serves. In 2015 she received the Community Leadership Award from ACANA for her efforts in addressing the health needs of the African Diaspora. Oni recently won first place as a Human Rights and Dignity Innovator for the Social Innovations Awards in Philadelphia. She has spoken nationwide in the U.S. and in Africa on the health needs and trends of her target population and serves on the planning committee of the U.S. Conference on African Immigrant Health. Recent initiatives include expanding the programs offered by AFAHO to Senegal, West Africa and she is also in the process of planning the 1st International Conference on Culture and Health. Oni can be reached at: oni@afaho.net