Meet the Selection Committee for the Opportunity Challenge

Wednesday April 29, 2020

We’re thrilled to introduce the selection committee of experts and community leaders who will be reviewing applications for the Opportunity Challenge: $1 Million to Uplift Immigrant Communities. This joint grantmaking initiative launched by the WES Mariam Assefa Fund and the Tarsadia Foundation seeks to identify and scale creative, wrap-around solutions to support immigrants in low-wage jobs. 

The selection committee will identify semi-finalist applicants. Several committee members have said that they also see their work with the Opportunity Challenge as a chance to learn more about the field of organizations and individuals supporting immigrant workers.  

“Now more than ever, we’re counting on all our neighbors – whether they’ve just arrived or lived here for generations – to be part of a healthier, more vibrant future for all Americans.I look forward to being part of the Opportunity Challenge selection committee so that I can learn from and help to grow the extraordinary work being done across the country to support immigrants and refugees as problem solvers and contributors to opportunity for all,” said Rachel Peric, Executive Director of Welcoming America.  

Tiffany Ferguson, Program Director at The Workers Lab added, “There are few prize competitions focused specifically on innovations for workers, especially a targeted population like immigrants and refugees. I suspect the Opportunity Challenge will offer a humbling sneak peek into what’s happening on the ground, who the innovators are, and what they really need.” 

Several selection committee members also bring their personal lived experience to the challenge. Craig Valdez, Regional Program Manager with New American Leaders shared, “As a son of immigrant parents, I think there are effective ways to uplift our communities and I see the Opportunity Challenge as a learning experience. I look forward to the cross-pollination of ideas between my work at New American Leaders and my role in the Opportunity Challenge.”  

Manual Portillo, Director of Community Engagement at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, who has worked for many years as a community organizer, added“I’m excited to contribute a perspective on how we can include immigrants in decision-making processes we are all involved with.”  

Collectively, this group brings a depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise in immigrant integration, workforce development, philanthropy, research, community organizing, and public policy to the Opportunity Challenge application evaluation process.

Meet the entire selection committee and hear more about the experience they bring to the Opportunity Challenge:

Wafaa Arbash is CEO and Co-Founder of Workaround, a startup that provides online work for displaced people to label data for machine learning applications. She serves as a mentor to startups at Five One Labs, a startup incubator.  @wafaa_arbash

Dany Bahar is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His research sits at the intersection of international economics and economic development. He focuses on the diffusion of technology and knowledge within and across borders, as measured by productivity, structural transformation, exports, entrepreneurship and innovation, among other factors. Lately, his research has focused on migrants and refugees as drivers of this process, alongside trade and capital flows.  @dany_bahar 

Antony Bugg-Levine is CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund, where he oversees more than $352 million of investment capital and a national consulting practice, and works with a range of philanthropic, private sector, and government partners to develop and implement innovative approaches to financing social change. He is a co-author of Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference.   @ABLImpact 

Suzette Brooks Masters serves as Senior Strategist at the Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration CouncilShe is a social entrepreneur, thought leader and strategist in the field of immigrant integration and social cohesion and has extensive philanthropic, non-profit, research, advocacy, program development, and legal experience.  @SuzetteMasters 

Miguel Bustos is Senior Director of the Center for Social Justice at Glide SF, a social justice movement, social service provider and spiritual community dedicated to strengthening communities and transforming lives in San Francisco. Most of Miguel’s career has been as an appointed official to local and national elected officials, including President Bill Clinton, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Mayor Ronald Dellums.  @miguelmbustos 

Tiffany Ferguson is Program Director at The Workers Lab, where she oversees the design and implementation of its signature programs. She brings 10 years of experience prospecting, developing, and implementing new programs and initiatives that foster public sector innovation, inclusive economic development, and cross-sector collaboration.  @theworkerslab 

Liza Gross is Vice President of Solutions Journalism Network, an independent non-profit that trains and connects journalists to cover what’s missing in today’s news: how people are responding to problems. She is a journalist and media leader with more than three decades of experience working in executive positions at news organizations and non-profits.  @soljourno  

Virginia Mosqueda is Senior Program Officer at the James Irvine Foundation, a grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. She brings more than a decade of experience in the non-profit, public policy, and advocacy arenas, holding senior positions within philanthropy and government.   @virginia4irvine 

Chris Pangilinan is Head of Global Policy for Public Transportation at Uber. In this role, Chris works to help public transportation agencies and riders harness Uber’s technology platform to make transit more convenient and easier to use. @cap_transport 

Prachi Patankar is Program Officer at Foundation for a Just SocietyOver two decades in New York City, she has been an activist, educator, grantmaker, and writer involved in social movements which link the local and the global, police brutality and war, migration and militarization, race and caste, and women of color feminism and global gender justice.  @Patankar_Prachi  

Rachel Peric is Executive Director of Welcoming America, which works to create communities where all residents – including immigrants and refugees – can thrive and belong. Since joining the organization in 2011, she has served in various senior leadership roles, helping Welcoming America to grow from a nascent startup to an award-winning organization with a global footprint.  @RachelPeric  

Manuel Portillo is Director of Community Engagement at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, where he has worked since 2014 to help unemployed and underemployed individuals develop the skills necessary to access professional employment. In his current role, Manuel works to develop participatory strategies to build trust and long-term relationships with participants and immigrant communities in Philadelphia.  @welcomingcenter 

Yuliya Tarasava is Co-Founder and COO of CNote, an impact investing platform to drive capital into underserved communities around the country. Over the years, Yuliya has maintained a passion for demystifying finance. Her efforts include creating an investment education portal in Russia and advising non-profits and startups around the world.  @ytarasava  

Craig Valdez is an activist who currently serves as a Regional Program Manager for New American Leaders. He is responsible for candidate development, program and event management, and data management of the Southwest Region.  @crgvaldez 

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