Communications and Outreach Manager
Jennifer Best (she/her) is excited to be joining the AAPI Commission as the Communications and Outreach Manager. She graduated from Tufts University in May 2022, where she studied Political Science, International Relations, and History. She specialized in migration, 20th century history, activism, and national security. She spent her senior year writing her Senior Honors Thesis in Political Science, titled Youth Activism: Who Becomes Involved in Youth Activism and Why? A look into the demographics and opinions of youth activists in comparison to older activists. She used statistical analysis to determine the effects that race, gender, education, and income had on participation in activism among 60,000 respondents, in addition to fielding a survey of former Ed Markey for U.S. Senate Campaign Fellows. Throughout her studies, she prioritized investigating and highlighting the real world effects of policies, regimes, and events on normal people, rather than just political elites.
Jennifer has experience in advocacy both through campaigns and in government. She worked as a Policy and Communications Intern for Massachusetts State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven, where she wrote testimonies, created and executed communications campaigns, researched policy, worked on the budget, and much more. She has also worked on multiple Massachusetts-based campaigns, including the Hicks for District Six Boston City Council Campaign, where she was a Finance and Events Fellow, in addition to writing official policy platforms for the candidate. She also worked as a Field and Communications Fellow on the Ed Markey for U.S. Senate Campaign, where she spent many hours writing speeches and remarks for the Senator, hosted in-person and virtual events, and trained hundreds of volunteers. Jennifer will bring her knowledge of communications and advocacy through both intra-governmental and extra-governmental pathways to her work at the AAPI Commission.
When Jennifer is not working, you can find her working in local and student theater, cooking a new recipe, or curled up with a good book. She is excited to be joining such a passionate team and to continue advocating for AAPI communities in Massachusetts.
Program & Research Director
Esther Hwi-Young Kim (she/hers) is the Program & Research Director of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Asian American & Pacific Islanders Commission. Esther identifies as a second-generation Korean American queer woman who grew up in southeastern Massachusetts on the land of the Wompanoag people. Her career journey involves wearing multiple hats as counselor, K-12 educator, and non-profit program coordinator, and she is proud to be a dedicated advocate for youth and community empowerment, with a particular focus on co-creating spaces of belonging and lifting up individual and collective histories of struggle and resistance.
At Tufts University, Esther focused her undergraduate studies on child development and ethnic studies coursework, and she wrote her family oral history as an entrypoint to begin researching how forces of migration, colonialism, systemic oppression, and trauma shaped the relational dynamics between her first-generation Korean immigrant family members and self. During this time, Esther was also introduced to grassroots community organizing via the Seeding Change National Fellowship Program for Asian American Organizing and Civic Engagement. As a Seeding Change Fellow, Esther interned at Chinese Progressive Association – Boston and co-coordinated the Chinese Youth Initiative’s summer leadership program.
After graduating from college and working internationally in K-12 education and program administration roles as part of the Fulbright Korea Commission, Esther proceeded to complete the Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) in Counseling program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she developed her counseling skills and was selected by her peers and faculty to receive the 2018 Intellectual Contribution Award. For the past three years, she has worked as part of the Lexington High School counseling staff and also supported student-faculty collaborations related to DEI initiatives, ethnic studies, and responding to community needs in light of COVID-19. Esther is excited to work together with the Commission and its constituents to celebrate and promote the well-being of AAPI communities across Massachusetts.
Dr. Leo L. Hwang is the Assistant Academic Dean in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. Hwang is particularly interested in using participatory action research and asset based community development as a model for enhancing how we engage in racial justice work in higher education. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts in Geosciences, an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and his B.A. in English and Fine Arts from the University of the South.
His work has appeared in The Racial Equity & Justice Institute Practitioner Handbook, The Handbook of Diverse Economies, Human Being & Literature, The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Travel and Tourism, Route Nine, Rethinking Marxism, Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet, Meat for Tea, The Massachusetts Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Rivendell, Fiction, Gulf Coast and other journals and publications. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Mount Holyoke College; Greenfield Community College; and Westfield State University; and he served as Dean of Humanities, Engineering, Math, and Science at Greenfield Community College.
Yasmin Padamsee Forbes (she/her) was selected as the Executive Director of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in April 2021. She is a proud first-generation immigrant, intersectional feminist, and climate change activist.
Yasmin has had a distinguished career with non-profits and the United Nations, serving in various senior leadership and management positions in Papua New Guinea, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and the US. She brings extensive experience in strategic partnerships, resource mobilization, management, and sustainable tourism.
In 2019, she was awarded an All-Star Award by the Harvard Kennedy School for co-curating “Pride and Progress,” a film festival showcasing artists and activists working on LGBTQ+ human rights struggles from around the globe. She was also awarded the 2018 Julius E. Babbitt Memorial Volunteer Award by Harvard for her exemplary public service with Kennedy School alumni in Myanmar and beyond and her ability to help alumni forge connections.
Yasmin received a full scholarship and graduated with a Masters in Communications and Film production from New York University and has a second Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University.
Yasmin served as the Harvard Alumni Representative in Myanmar and on the Alumni Board of Directors for the Harvard Kennedy School.
Yasmin proudly serves as the Chair and Commissioner for the Cambridge Human Rights Commission. Working across Massachusetts, Yasmin has been working with groups to promote sustainable tourism and mitigate climate change.
She firmly believes in the need to connect leaders and activists from multiple cultures and sectors so they can “work together to create a force for positive and sustainable change.”
Ekta Saksena is a first-generation Indian-American, proud daughter of immigrants, intersectional feminist, and public health enthusiast. She grew up in Massachusetts, with strong ties to the local Indian community and culture.
Ekta received her Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2018 and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Health from Boston University in 2014. She has a broad range of expertise pertaining to healthcare marketing, strategic communications, and research-based advocacy and is deeply passionate about racial justice, women’s empowerment, community health, and health equity. As a public health practitioner, Ekta strives to put equity and justice at the forefront of all that she does.
Currently, Ekta is a Senior Health Communications Specialist at FHI 360, an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. As part of the Social Marketing & Communications team, Ekta provides communications strategy and support for various chronic disease prevention efforts through the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. She is also collaborating on a number of racial equity projects, with both internal and external partners.
Previously, Ekta worked at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as a Health Communications Specialist within the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention. In her role, she managed all health communications efforts for a number of statewide chronic disease management and prevention programs, including Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, and Community Health Workers. During her time at DPH, Ekta was a leader within the Department’s Racial Equity Movement, serving as an active member/facilitator of the Racial Equity Leadership Team, Racial Equity Strategic Planning Team, Racial Equity Policy Work Group, and Racial Justice Lunch & Learn.
Dimple’s advocacy for Revere, Massachusetts spans across neighborhoods, sectors, and generations of Revere residents. As Director of the City’s Department of Healthy Community Initiatives and Co-Director of Revere On the Move, she has worked with residents, businesses, and stakeholders to increase access to opportunities for active living, healthy eating, civic engagement, and youth leadership. She is a recent graduate of Tufts University’s, with a Master in Public Policy from the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program. Dimple’s commitment to building a vibrant, engaged, and active Revere also extends to her work as a champion of small businesses and a longtime civic leader.
Dimple is the first woman of color to run for office in Revere. She ran in 2017 for 1 of 5 seats as Councillor At-Large. She will run again in 2019 and is hopeful in being elected.
A first generation Indian American, Dimple grew up in Revere, attending public schools and working in her family’s small, independent convenience stores in the North Shore. At the stores, she learned the value and struggles of a small family-owned business, from the unique perspective of immigrant families. In high school, she worked as a peer leader at a youth organization that fostered her love for youth leadership and organizing. After graduating from Hofstra University in Community Health and Education in 2002, she returned to Greater Boston and became a community organizer, working with many organizations focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, and LBGTQ and immigrants rights.’
From 2001 to 2010, she worked independently with grassroots and advocacy organizations as a community organizer and leader on the issue of deportation of Cambodians, other green card holders, and refugees within the National Immigration and Anti-Deportation Movement.
In 2012 she returned to Revere and founded a youth leadership organization, Revere Youth in Action, where young people worked to ensure they had opportunities to grow, lead, and promote a safe, and inclusive community in Revere. In 2016, the Revere Chamber of Commerce named her Youth Mentor of the Year.
In 2013 she joined the Women Encouraging Empowerment, Inc. board where she continues to serve as the Vice-Chair. WEE is the only organization in Revere that works with immigrant and refugee women and their families through organizing, leadership development, and service delivery.
Also, in 2016 she was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo as a commissioner to the Massachusetts Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission. In 2018, she served as the Secretary of the AAPIC. Currently, Dimple is serving her second term with the AAPIC.
Dimple loves and is deeply committed to her family, especially her young niece and nephews. Dimple looks up to the older and younger people around her who continue to push, ask questions, challenge the status quo, and who are the change we want to see in our world.
Her passion for organizing and grassroots change is expressed through a quote by Audre Lorde “If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.”
Megha Prasad is an undergraduate student at Northeastern University studying Political Science and Business. As a second generation Indian American, Megha grew up experiencing many of the struggles surrounding identity and adaptation that minority families often face. Through her education, she gained familiarity with critical race literature and public policy, the intersection of which prompted her to become involved in electoral politics.
She previously served as an intern to Senator Ed Markey in his Washington, DC office and aided in his re-election campaign in 2020. As Megha gained more campaign experience, she also became acutely aware of the issues impacting AAPI communities in the Commonwealth and looks forward to finding ways to push for legislation in the State House. Primarily, she seeks to reduce barriers to voting and make other public services more accessible to English-language learners. Recently, Megha worked alongside fellow Northeastern students to increase support for AAPI individuals on campus. This involved working with university administrators to begin the development of an Asian American Studies program as well as increase financial support for the Asian American Center on campus.
Megha is excited to begin her second year on the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission and have the opportunity to focus on AAPI issues in the Commonwealth.
Nina Liang is the first Chinese-American City Councilor in her hometown of Quincy. Born in Quincy and raised by immigrant parents, she has experienced first hand the challenges minority children and families face. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to be a part of community organizations dedicated to addressing the needs of those who are new to both the language and customs of American culture. Having worked as the office manager and helping to manage operations with her family’s restaurant group, Nina also has the experience and perspective of a small business owner, creating jobs and opportunity in the communities in which they operate. Nina understands that it takes collaborative efforts among these local organizations, businesses and public service facilities to better address the needs of the diverse residents Quincy has.
Dr. Gary Y. Chu is the Vice President of Professional Affairs at the New England College of Optometry. He received his Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from the New England College of Optometry in 1995 and his Masters of Public Health (MPH) in 2002 from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
He has been in practice and optometric education for over twenty-five years and is involved in the changing landscape of eye care, health care and public health during this span of time. Dr. Chu has been in the forefront of eye care innovations through the development of collaborative partnerships with health systems, federally qualified health centers, social service agencies, local and state government, school systems, health payors, ophthalmic industry and optometry employer groups.
Dr. Chu has been involved in issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for over ten years and has served on the diversity and cultural competency committee for the Association of Schools and College of Optometry (ASCO) from 2011-2020. He is the founding chair of ASCO’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) SIG and was the Guest Editor for the Journal of Optometric Education’s theme issue on diversity and cultural competency in 2017. In 2021, he was presented the ASCO’s Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award.
Mary K. Y. Lee is a litigation attorney based in Boston. An immigrant of Indonesian-Chinese ancestry, advocating for the interests of Asian Americans is among her passions. She served on the Commission to Plan, Develop, and Implement Strategies to Support and Promote Minority-Owned Real Estate and Financial Services Organizations in the Commonwealth; Co-Chaired Immigration Section of the Boston Bar Association; served on the MA Trial Courts Language Access Advisory Committee and named by Super Lawyers from 2015-2019. She is a regular lecturer at Asian Community Development Corporation of Boston and an active Board Member of Central Boston Elder Services..
Nate currently serves as the Vice Chairperson of the AAPIC and is in his second three year term as an Attorney General appointee.
Over the course of Nate’s career, he has worked primarily in the nonprofit sector at organizations with missions dedicated to addressing racial and economic inequities through education, leadership development, healthcare and mental health and more. He has worked and served at organizations such as YouthBuild USA, the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, Friends of the Children, The Institute for Asian American Studies, and Crescendo Consulting Group. Currently, Nate serves as the Director of Youth Programs at YouthBuild Just A Start, an organization that works with out of school youth to finish their high school educations, build job readiness skills, as well as leadership and career development.
Mr. Kupel has held a number of community leadership positions including serving as President of Boston Korean Adoptees, Inc., President of the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, and Board member of the International Association for the Advancement of Social Work Groups – Massachusetts. Presently, he is a board member of Boston Post Adoption Resources.
In 2021, Nate ran for the City of Malden City Council in Ward 8 and despite coming short of securing a seat on the council, was instrumental in the development and passage of the city’s first Racial Equity Commission. He is currently the Mayor of Malden’s appointee to the City of Malden’s Racial Equity Commission.
Nate received his BA in Sociology and Certificate in Asian American Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and holds a Master of Social Work from Simmons University (formerly Simmons College), and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, in affiliation with Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.
Nate currently lives in Malden, Massachusetts with his wife, QJ and their cat Cookie Dough.
Betty Lim King (Chinese name: Kong Mei-ling) is author of “Girl on a Leash: The Healing Power of Dogs, a sociological memoir” about how her Chinese Confucian leash became a lifeline in the company of abandoned dogs. She also wrote “Healing with my Dogs,” “From America to Africa, Voices of Filipino Women Overseas” about how dogs break down barriers of race, class, gender, religion, politics, and other human distinctions, making us share our humanity with each other.
She is co-founder of AAPI Action Group, a coalition of diverse, grassroots Asian American and Pacific Islander groups promoting a common American culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity. She is Executive Director of Seniors Helping Seniors, a creative and innovative program where senior people give comfort to senior animals and receive comfort at the same time. As a DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) speaker, Betty believes that E pluribus unum is the true American way.
She was Development Director and Board member of various community-based nonprofits. She was moderator of “Finding the Gold Mountain: Lessons Learned From Failures,” for the First annual Asian American Pacific lslander Civic Forum held at the Federal Reserve Plaza. She was restaurant critic for the Charlotte Observer, lifestyle columnist for the Catawba Valley Neighbors and a sociology instructor at the Lenoir Rhyne College in North Carolina. While living in Paris for 10 years, she was President of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization UNESCO International Cooking School. She has a certificate from La Varenne French culinary school and Acadamie du Vin oenology.
Betty graduated magna cum laude in economics and obtained two Master degrees: Asian Studies from the University of the Philippines and Development Economics from the University of Manchester, England. She also studied agricultural economics at the University of Tokyo, Japan and did graduate studies on nonprofit management at Harvard University and Boston University. At Harvard, she was awarded the prestigious Derek Bok Public Service Award and Citation for Management of Nonprofit Organizations. She was also Class Marshall, graduating top three.
Among her numerous published academic papers are: Japanese colonialism and Korean Economic Development, 1970 Sino-American Rapprochement, Art As Cultural Identity.
Above all, Betty is extremely proud of her lifelong work in promoting respect for all sentient beings and nature. Towards this goal, she has been rescuing and adopting homeless and disposable 4-legged sentient beings. Her animal family includes 6 rescue
dogs, a farm pig who escaped a slaughterhouse, and 3 rescue horses including a Mustang.
Mr. Pralhad KC is the Partner/Consultant of Equiserve, Inc. Environmental Engineering Consultant and also the Owner / CEO of Prem-La, the oldest and first Himalayan Region Art Gallery of New England. Mr. KC holds, MBA, (Master in Business Administration), in Finance and Marketing Management, BSCE, (Bachelor in Science in Civil Engineering) in Water and Wastewater management.CDA, (Carrier Discovery Architecture) in Urban planning.
Mr. KC is a Project Manager with an extensive experience in leading national and international economic development projects and Water and Wastewater projects. He has worked with multi-national staffs thought the US and Southeast Asia. His skills include institutional capacity building, strategic planning, program designs, evaluations, training and technical assistance.
Mr. KC has led several International and National projects with the ADB (Asian Development Bank), UNDP (United Nation Development Program) and NGOs. Mr. KC also has significant expertise in establishing an effective network with decision-makers at all levels and in building the capabilities of international staffs to assume full project management responsibilities.
Mr. KC is a Social and Community leader has led many national and International Non–Profit organizations such as, MIND, Inc, Nepal America Foundation, ANA (Association of Nepales in America), NRN NCC of America, IHO, (International Health Organization) and GBNC (Greater Boston Nepalese Community), etc.
Mr. KC has received numerous Honors, Recognitions, Awards and Gold Medals for his social and community activities especially working to improving lives of the immigrant communities, such as , New American Appreciation Award, from Commonwealth of Massachusetts, City of Cambridge “Key of the”, Gold Medal from the King of Nepal and several “Citations” and “Honored recognition” from, Governors, Mayors Legislatives Leaders and International Dignitaries.
Cinda Danh, born and raised in Lynn, MA, a public school graduate and a graduate of UMass Boston, began her journey in politics after experiencing housing insecurity in 2010. Through this hardship, she and her family worked with organizations that fought against unjust foreclosures and evictions. This unfortunate situation became her call to action and her journey into politics, organizing, and advocacy.
In 2013 Cinda was a fellow with the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative, where she gained hands-on experience working as an intern at the Massachusetts State House. After her internship ended, she was offered a Legislative Aide position and then a few short years later became the Staff Director to another State Representative. From there she served as a Government Relations Specialist at a lobbying firm.
In 2019 Cinda became the first AAPI woman to run for office in Lynn. She won her hotly contested preliminary and lost her general election. Cinda’s committed to her community and currently sits on the board for Lynn Main Streets and Raw Art Works and serves as a mentor with the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative.
Mary Chin is a longtime community leader with extensive experience in human services and a strong track record of service in Boston and beyond. A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Mary is the daughter of immigrants and understands the struggles immigrant families face firsthand.
Mary is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in private practice and has served as Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Social Work. She has led social service departments and psychiatric programs in Boston and the North Shore. Mary served on AACA’s Board of Directors as President and oversaw the organization’s growth, including the construction of the building at 87 Tyler Street, the expansion of workforce training, education and social service programs, as well as the addition of the Mandarin immersion Reggio Emilia daycare, Buds & Blossoms.
Mary completed her graduate studies in social work at Simmons College and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts. Mary has also served on the boards of Action for Boston Community Development, Urban College, American Cancer Society, Mothers for Justice and Equality, Company One, South Cove Community Health Center, Eastern Bank, and the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission.
In 2017, a Citation for her service to Massachusetts was bestowed upon her by Governor Charlie Baker.
Meena grew up in New Delhi, India and moved to the United States two decades ago. Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is home and she enjoys getting to know people, their interests and passions. She is a strong believer in our shared common humanity. She focuses on this belief and her guiding principles of dharma and karma, in the community building work that she does every day.
Meena has many interests. Education and impact of sound education in the lives of young people and society is of deep interest to her. She has served on local, regional and state level educational bodies. She is a strong advocate for personalized education plans for all learners, celebrating strengths, building supports, and varied paths to learning. She has served in many volunteer capacities including as Chair, DESE’s Gifted & Talented Education Advisory Council; Chair, Hopkinton Public School Committee; Member, Education Committee, Christa McAuliffe Charter School; Member, The Education Cooperative (TEC). Through all these roles, she has had an opportunity to learn, collaborate with many wonderful people, and influenced hearts, minds and policies for better outcomes. She takes great pride in her contribution in the formation of AAPI Commission’s first Youth Council, which elevates youth voices and promotes civic engagement.
Meena currently works in the financial industry as a Program Manager. She is very grateful for her family, life experiences and support of her friends and community which have made her life rich and fulfilling.
Jonjy Ananth MD, MBA from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts is the elected President and Chairman of the Board for WCUW Inc. Worcester, MA. With over 700 members, around 120 programmers WCUW broadcasts live on 91.3FM radio and streams online 24/7 to a worldwide audience at www.wcuw.org .
Jonjy hosts his radio show titled “Community Matters” every Thursday 12.30 to 1.00pm at WCUW 91.3FM streaming worldwide online at www.wcuw.org and archived at www.wcuw.org/communitymatters. His show brings community-participation forum interviews with physicians, lawyers, CEOs, community leaders, and elected officials on all issues that impact the community.
Jonjy has been volunteering hundreds of hours in service providing culturally sensitive support to survivors of Asian American origin with his training in Trauma Informed Care. He is engaged with several non-profit organizations, among them include Saheli Inc., India Society of Worcester (ISW), Community Legal Aid (CLA), YWCA, South Asian Bar Association (SABA), Jane Doe Inc., and ADVISE [co-Chair]. He is a White Ribbon Ambassador for Jane Doe Inc., promoting initiatives to prevent intimate partner violence.
As a domestic violence advocate, Jonjy assists survivors for court proceedings, accessing shelter, social security, child care, free legal assistance benefits, and maintaining liaisons with local police. As a community volunteer, he works closely with town, county and state officials to help them connect with the South Asian community. Jonjy is an elected Town member for Shrewsbury, Deputy Sheriff [Reserve] for Worcester County, Shrewsbury Constable, and a Notary Public for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Jonjy has provided volunteer healthcare services at Free Clinics in Ohio and Massachusetts. He has research publications in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine [as first author] and International Journal of Radiation Oncology.Biology.Physics. He is a member of the Mass Medical Society (MMS), World Medical Association (WMA), American Society of Microbiology (ASM), American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and TIE-Boston.
Jonjy is certified extensively in emergency medical skills, including Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Advanced Trauma Life Support, and Fundamental Critical Care Support. He received the presidential merit scholarship from his medical school, was an honoree of the Dean’s list, and was elected President of the student council.
Jonjy enjoys playing chess, tennis, badminton and table tennis with his friends and family. Jonjy Ananth’s dedication for enhancing others’ lives in the fast growing South Asian community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pursues John Quincy Adams quote “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Danielle Kim is a proud second-generation Korean American, intersectional feminist, and community activist. She is the inaugural Director of the Asian Community Fund at The Boston Foundation — a permanent endowment that is designed to build the visibility and capacity of diverse AAPI communities in the region, especially low-income and immigrant communities.
Danielle previously served as Director of Public Policy at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, where she organized state and federal advocacy efforts, stewarded relationships with city and state lawmakers, and managed a portfolio of grantmaking. Prior to that, she was the Director of Communications at Scholars Strategy Network, where she shaped messaging, oversaw research and publications, and advanced data-driven policymaking. She also worked as the Director of Policy and Communications for Boston After School & Beyond, a city-wide coalition of after school and summer learning programs serving students in Boston Public Schools.
She began her career as a Fulbright Fellow in South Korea, and then served as a community organizer in her home state of New Jersey—most notably as a Regional Field Director for the 2012 presidential campaign. She continued on as a Communications Specialist in the New Jersey State Legislature, where she managed media relations for six state senators.
Danielle earned a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Psychology from Smith College. Committed to expanding access to power and opportunity, Danielle serves as a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission and a member of the Chelsea Cultural Council.
Haniya Syeda is a first generation Pakistani immigrant and American Muslim passionate about the intersection of innovation, social impact, and mental health equity. Born and raised in Boston to a working class family of nine, Haniya witnessed the impact social and economic injustice has on the health and mental well-being of families in vulnerable communities.
Haniya received a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Boston University’s School of Public Health in 2018 and her Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences from Boston University. In her current role as a Program Director at the Immigrant and Refugee Center at Boston Medical Center, she oversees mental health, medical, and social services for immigrant, refugee, asylees, and undocumented patient at BMC. She also manages academic research at the center and leads the center’s Innovation Hub. Haniya also serves as the Research Project Manager in BMC’s Department of Psychiatry where she oversees a multisite national project to study digital treatment delivery for children with elevated anxiety in low-income minority communities and works on projects related to increasing access to mental health care. Haniya has previously worked in health policy research, community organizing, and non-profit operations working with organizations on local and global education and health initiatives.
Haniya also completed a fellowship with New Leaders Council in 2019, which is a training program for young emerging civic leaders, and currently serves on Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham’s 2030 Youth Advisory Council. With a background in applied research, Haniya is committed to addressing health disparities and improving mental health among underserved immigrant communities and global communities.
Philjay Somera Solar is currently a contracted Investigator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, enforcing the civil rights of individuals in the healthcare system as well as HIPAA Regulations. Philjay is also chair of the Commission’s Young Leadership Symposium. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Lasell University (’13) and his Juris Doctor Degree from New England Law | Boston (’19). At New England Law, Philjay was President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and the Executive Treasurer of the Student Bar Association.
Before attending law school, Philjay dedicated two years of public service with the AmeriCorps Program, City Year. Through City Year, he served the Boston Community working with a team of young individuals striving to close the education gap within inner city public schools.
Philjay has received numerous accolades most notably, being a 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholars Program recipient for Law and Government and a representative of the 2019 Filipino Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro) where he was picked by the Philippine Consulate of New York and Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Jose Romualdez.
He is also the founder of Fil-Lennials of New England which features young professionals of Filipino-American descent to inspire and connect other Filipino-Americans across New England. Philjay currently sits as President of the Philippine Dance and Culture Organization (PDCO), a Regional Advisor for the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association (NaFFAA) and Board Director for the Philippine American Mainstream Advocacy for Non-Partisan Associations, Inc. (PAMANA) Through PAMANA, Philjay has contributed to their annual Philippine Independence Day Celebrations and Filipino-American Highs School Leadership Workshop.
In his spare time, Philjay volunteers with multiple non-profit organizations like the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation and BosFilipino. He is also an active liaison with the Philippine Consulate of New York where he communicates the needs of the Filipino-American Community in New England to the Consulate office.
Prior to serving on the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission as a Commissioner, Sam had worked for Massachusetts House Speaker, Robert DeLeo for four years. He is also the Communications Manager for Hate Is A Virus. Further, Sam is pursuing his Masters of Public Policy with a concentration in Poverty Alleviation, as well as a Masters in Business Administration with a focus on Social Impact, both at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
Sam is an active advocate for the Asian American community. The mission is to bring unification and prosperity among the diverse community, while building solidarity with other communities as well. Sam is dedicated to social justice and racial equity. His goal is to create opportunities and ensure that society is a just and equitable world for all. That with love, empathy and compassion, in collaboration with uplifting people, we can and will work in harmony in order to build the society we’ve always dreamt of into our reality.
Development & Communications Coordinator
Bonnie is the Development and Communications Coordinator at AAPI Commission. She is a current undergraduate at Brandeis University studying Sociology and Asian American Studies. In the past, she has worked with a community initiative dedicated to promoting arts programming and youth education and a literary organization nurturing Asian American and BIPOC writers. She is passionate about education, grassroots organizing, and migration studies. Bonnie is interested in the intersection of social justice, and arts and design as a means of inspiring and advocating for social change. In her free time, Bonnie loves exploring new eating spots and has a love for mango green tea.
Abdul Haseeb Hamza is a senior at Bard College at Simon’s Rock double majoring in Chemistry and Social Action/Social Change. Haseeb is really passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion work. He has done a lot of work for the Council of Equity and Inclusion and the department of campus life at his college. In his work, he has advocated for the marginalized by influencing policy decisions, promoting communication between administration and students, programming to address inequality and injustice, and by creating spaces for students with marginalized identities.
At his institution, he founded and led the South Asian Student Association on campus as a space to foster community and solidarity as well as to promote cultural awareness of diverse communities on campus. As someone who is passionate about both the natural and the social sciences, Haseeb believes in the power of education and public health programs to promote equity and inclusion across society. He has been involved in mentorship and teaching for youth in his career and is also looking to pursue public health and education opportunities for his postgraduate life.