About Us.

Photo by Fadi Dahabrah from Pexels

AsylumConnect provides the world's first web and mobile resource platform for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution.

AsylumConnect co-founders Sy and Jamie met as college students at the University of Pennsylvania. Sy shared his experience struggling to find safe resources during his own U.S. asylum process. Despite access to technology, upon arrival in the United States Sy struggled as a gay asylum seeker to know where it was safe to go for help to meet his basic needs, from finding legitimate pro bono legal representation for his asylum claim to LGBTQ+ affirming health care, mental health support, housing, and educational opportunities. As a trans man from a conservative background, the feeling of not being able to live authentically deeply resonated with Jamie. During their senior year, Sy and Jamie co-founded AsylumConnect to extend the first ever digital lifeline to other persecuted and marginalized LGBTQ+ people.

AsylumConnect is founded on the belief that every LGBTQ+ person deserves the safety and freedom to live authentically.

Need Help?

Use our FREE resource website and mobile app to connect with verified LGBTQ+ affirming and immigrant friendly legal, medical, mental health, and social services in seconds, 24/7.

Join Our Team

Join our remote team and help persecuted LGBTQ+ people find safety!

OUR TEAM, BOARD & ADVISORS

Learn more about our Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, interns, Junior Board, and Advisory Council.  

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is the governing body for AsylumConnect. The board plays a pivotal role in developing AsylumConnect’s strategic plan, providing oversight and guidance. Ultimately, our board works to steer AsylumConnect towards achieving its vision of ensuring every LGBTQ+ person knows where it is safe to go for help.

Jamie Sgarro J.D. Candidate; Co-Founder & Former Executive Director at AsylumConnect
Julian Sanjivan Co-President at InterPride
Sean Buckley, Board Chair Director of Operations at Kupanda Capital
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen Deputy Executive Director for Policy & Advocacy at the National Center for Transgender Equality
Wesley Bizzell Sr. Asst. Gen. Counsel at Altria Group & Pres. Natl. LGBT Bar Assoc.
Justin Becker Associate at Sidley Austin LLP
Keeley Hanlon Senior Director at Purple Strategies

Staff

Our staff members lead our operations and collaborate with our volunteers to connect persecuted LGBTQ+ people with safety.

Shalawn James Executive Director
Paulina Leyva Resource Coordinator, Canada / French (Part-Time)
F.J. Genus Tech Lead (Part-Time)
Chloe Moore Programs Manager (Part-Time)
Abby Davies Resource Coordinator, Mexico / Spanish (Part-Time)
Carissa Chantiles Resource Coordinator, United States / English (Part-Time)

Volunteers

Our volunteers are invaluable to the continued growth of our organization. We are proud to have volunteers from a diversity of immigration statuses, races/ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities. Learn more about our volunteers below. 

Interested in joining our remote team? Click here

Volunteer Directors

Our volunteer leadership team helps to support our staff.

Li-Jay Chu Co-Director of Marketing & PR
Mia Huynh UX Design Lead
Elizabeth Walker Co-Director of Marketing & PR
Jordyn Mathis Director of Human Resources
Ceren Ozgul UX Research Lead

Volunteer Associates

Our volunteer associates leverage their skills to advance AsylumConnect.

Marie Esther-Buh Team Coordinator
Shoshana Weinstein Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Claire Bonzani Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Théa Klement Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Emily Habeck Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Ilan Korman Spanish Translator
Sarah Funda Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Olivia Barrios Rojas Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Melissa Navarro Spanish Translator
David Pazmino Spanish Translator
Kevin Ye Web Developer
Miroslav Damyanov UX Researcher
Caroline Leeolou Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Jesus Galvan Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Gabriel Friedin Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Jeffrey Lam Web Developer
Kendra Gallick Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Mallory Woods Spanish Translator
Valeria Paulina Olmedo Jiménez Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Rodrigo Martinez Research & Policy Analyst
Rachel Little Social Media Coordinator
Patricia DuBose Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Chris Aguilar Partnerships & Outreach
Rubina Sidhu Policy & Research Associate (Canada)
Wei Li UX Designer
Taylor Holmes Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Ellie Safran Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Shannon Wu Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Matthew Tran Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Gioia Kennedy Research & Policy Analyst
Ross Sounart Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Shoba Jayaraman UX Researcher
Peggy Lu UX Designer
Julia Fest Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Sophia Zephir Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Kate Davila Social Media Coordinator
Joshua Lokken Web Developer
Karla Michelle Alas Rivera Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Steandly Eko Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator
Sarah Hendry, MBA Press Secretary
Meghan Singer Spanish Translator
Enrique Santamaría UX Researcher

Interns

Our interns join us for the summer or a semester to develop their skills while supporting LGBTQ+ asylum seekers’ safe resettlement.

Learn more about our Summer 2021 intern class below.

Interested in interning with us? Click here to view our current internship positions. 

Douglas Van Renen Marketing Intern
Daisy Collins Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Anna Mae Flannery Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Celia Deverix Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Loulou Krivobok Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Tanya Chen Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Lena Bossler Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Marya Basurto Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Christopher Camacho Recruiting Intern
Nicolette Monaco PR/Media Intern
Fatima Karim Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Hazel Dela Cerna Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Patrick Lund Forsman Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Matt Martignoni Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Kylee McGovern Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Luna Stewart Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Isabella Unger Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Rose Delogu Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Hailey Hollowell Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Kaela Thurber Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Kyle Abrahams Recruiting Intern
Alena Russell Corporate Partnerships Intern
Genevieve Husak Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Anthony Nguyen Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Amy Ciminnisi Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Oliver Cope Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Lauren Holland Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Anette Mei Rajander Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Kate English Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Julie Wagoner Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Jamie Johnson Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Mia Eisenberg PR/Media Intern
Jeremy Kern Corporate Partnerships Intern
Kelci Ward Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Angeles Arroyo Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Anna Blancas Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Akina Shimizu Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Marcia DeLoach Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Alice Garner Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Awdifa Abdin Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (English)
Matt Schetina Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Estefania Ortega Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Dayana Castrejon Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (Spanish)
Gracie Heim PR/Media Intern
Emily Whitten Corporate Partnerships Intern
Halloran Purcell Social Services & Outreach Coordinator Intern (French)
Patricia DuBose Data Entry & Outreach Coordinator

Junior Board

The AsylumConnect Junior Board is a group of young professionals committed to supporting AsylumConnect’s critical work through fundraising, networking and marketing. We are excited to welcome 37 members to the 2021 program.

Learn more about this innovative program for young professionals in the U.S. and how to become a member here.

2021 Steering Committee

The Steering Committee serves as the leadership team of the AsylumConnect Junior Board.

Slavi Arnaudov, Co-Chair The Blackstone Group, Tactical Opportunities Investor
Nina Seminara, Director of Marketing Committee Ipsos, Research Analyst
Glenn R. McGillivray, Co-director of Recruitment Committee Jones Day, Associate (Securities Litigation and SEC Enforcement)
Judy Siegel, Co-Chair Dow Jones, Director of Product Design & UX
Stephen Rice, Co-director of Tech Committee Google, Software Engineer
Martha O’Brien, Co-director of Recruitment Committee Capital One, Human Resources Associate
Nima Niassati, Director of Fundraising Committee Salesforce, Strategy & Operations Sr Analyst
Elizabeth “Boof” Truchan, Co-director of Tech Committee Roblox, Software Engineer
Nehal Gupta, Director of Social Committee BBR Partners, Associate
Will Sheehan, Director of Learning & Development Committee Safe Passage Project, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow

2021 Members

Javier Moran-Eserki EY-Parthenon, Consultant
Megan Druss Balyasny Asset Management, Compliance Associate
Michael Leonetti NYU Law School, Second Year Law Student
Ben Mills Cambrian Biopharma, Associate, Office of the CEO
Kasra Zarei University of Iowa, Graduate Student
Rohan Dsouza PwC, Digital Assurance & Transparency (DAT) Manager
Federico Ivanissevich PwC, Consultant
Christina Tong Google, Product Manager
Bennett Johnson Kearney, Senior Business Analyst
Jenna Vaccaro American Express, Web Designer
Mary (MO) Swinson Social Worker
Gaurav Lalsinghani DC Public Charter School Board, Sector Data Analyst
Angel Yu PwC Strategy&, Senior Associate
Ryann Ersoff COVID-19 Resource App, Co-Founder/Developer
Michael Lupton Blank Rome, Associate
William Chiu Gusto, People Empowerer, Recruiting Coordinator Pod
Gabriela MacPherson Riverside Language Program, Company Outcomes Coordinator
Brett Schratz American Civil Liberties Union - Voting Rights Project, Paralegal
Kayleigh Redmond Freelance Writer
Kassidy Rumpf PwC, Tax Associate
Max Chasen Deloitte, Transfer Pricing Consultant
Megan Schippmann Royal Bank of Canada, Capital Markets. Senior Associate Strategist, Global Research
Daniel Lowenthal Horizon Media, Growth Associate, Big
Kelly Chan Adobe, Program Operations Manager
Alex Campili BlackRock, Analyst
Tanushree Khanna PwC, Assurance Senior Associate

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is a diverse group of LGBTQ+ advocates, asylees, refugees, nonprofit leaders, and human rights defenders. Members generously lend their areas of expertise, personal experiences, and networks to help AsylumConnect reach its full potential.

Hans How
Mike Iskandaryan
Emma Biegacki
Sara Wagner, MA
Jacque Larrainzar
Maikel Nabil Sanad
Grace Liu
Maher Darwiche
Fernando Chang-Muy, M.A., J.D.
Raina Fox, M.A.
Priscilla F. Aybar
Micheal Ighodaro
Francisco Tenorio-Hernández
Danielle Madeja

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