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Kayla Byrd was born and raised in Indianapolis where she has happily witnessed the growth of the city’s immigrant population. As a language and culture enthusiast, Kayla has always enjoyed connecting with and learning about the diverse members of her community. In doing so, she has also learned about some of the challenges that they are faced with.
Kayla has a strong drive for serving and helping others. Before joining the Immigrant Welcome Center, she has worked in hospitality and healthcare. Kayla is a recent graduate of Indiana University with a BA in Linguistics.
In her role as office coordinator, Kayla hopes to make the immigrant community feel welcome and supported by connecting them to the resources that will allow them to thrive here in Indianapolis.
In her free time Kayla enjoys spending time with her family, group exercise classes, gardening and reading.
Bekah Wickham is a community advocate with a drive for justice and equity. With an educational background in community development, she is passionate about contributing her knowledge and skills to her community in hopes to advocate and care for those within it. Bekah has experience working with Cuban, Haitian, and Dominican migrants through work with International Organization for Migration under the UN, and out of this experience has developed a passion for the immigrants in her own community of Indianapolis. As Manager of Training and Resources, Bekah is responsible for developing and presenting trainings and workshops for community partners, and in doing so, can share her heart for advocacy and drive for justice with those who are interested in learning how to better care for the immigrants in their community.
Nilofar Sherzad has worked at various national and international organizations for children’s and women’s rights. She has more than ten years of experience in the fields of advocacy, human Rights conducting research and training, drafting regulations, and implementing projects. Beyond professional experiences, she is a civil rights activist, advocating for human rights, women’s rights, democracy, and social justice. Nilofar is a native of Afghanistan and now lives in Indianapolis with her family.
Juan Padilla was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, where he majored in International Relations and Finance at the Universidad de la Costa.
Having close family connections in Indianapolis, he came to pursue his master’s degree for language teachers at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis, which he completed in 2022. Juan has an extensive background in humanitarian work related to translation and interpretation in more than eight countries in Central and South America.
In Indianapolis, he has helped communities like second, third, and fourth-generation Spanish language learners, intentionally including them in the language learning agenda, with efforts that go from altruistically translating children’s books to the creation of more inclusive higher education lectures and resources.
During his free time, Juan enjoys walks with his wife, photography, watching soccer and playing his guitar.
Mistie Rivas is passionate about assisting and connecting the immigrant community to the resources they need. As an immigrant and first-generation college graduate herself, she understands the obstacles newcomers and minorities face every day and looks forward to being able to connect with community members with compassion. Her role as the Naturalization and Legal Service Coordinator allows Mistie to help bridge the gap between immigrants and legal resources offered in Indianapolis.
Mistie is a recent alum of IUPUI where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. After years of being undocumented, a DACA recipient, and lastly, a legal permanent resident, she became a Naturalized Citizen in 2022. She looks forward to using her experience to assist immigrants navigating different legal statuses. Mistie looks forward to using her strong networking and communication skills to connect with community members and program leaders to work on ways to help immigrants find legal resources and become naturalized citizens.
Parvinder Gulati was born and raised in New Delhi, India. His middle-class parents instilled in him the value of hard work and community service.
As a Sikh, he believes in seva, selfless service performed without expectation of reward or personal gain. Seva means service, referring to selfless efforts for the community’s welfare (sarbat da bhala). Parvinder obtained his bachelor’s degree in commerce from Delhi University in 1997. He immigrated to the United States in 1998, and after experiencing life in New York City, he settled down in Indianapolis in 2012.
Parvinder worked in the supply chain, logistics, and transportation, helping his customers and clients meet their business needs. In his professional experience, he has worked with people from different cultures, developing a deep appreciation of diversity in the community and workplace.
Parvinder has been active in the Sikh community of Central Indiana, helping and volunteering at the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) and other community-building and cultural events.
As a community navigator, Parvinder is committed to helping all individuals access the resources they need to heal and recover from the impact of the mass shooting in Indianapolis in April 2021. Parvinder speaks English, Punjabi, and Spanish.
Diana Avila is originally from Honduras. At the age of 4, she moved to the U.S. with her family. She has lived in Indianapolis ever since, but it has not been easy. Being an immigrant and DACA recipient, Diana has held a passion for paving the way for other immigrants.
Her service to the immigrant community is undeniable as she hopes to continue to serve as the office coordinator for the Immigrant Welcome Center. In this role, Diana hopes to continue supporting immigrants in Indianapolis through her experience and passion for helping her community in a way that she has felt her family and herself have never been helped.
As Diana finishes her psychology degree at Marian University, she hopes to use her knowledge to continue building relationships and reducing the obstacles for immigrants in her community to ensure that all immigrants are thriving. She is committed to her role as a servant for immigrants and is constantly finding ways to help immigrants.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, learning new things every day, and digital design. Diana is also a Natural Helper and mental health advocate.
Gurinder Kaur is a servant leader, compassionate advocate for equity, and champion for social justice.
Gurinder was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. Her formative years were influenced by her middle-class working parents—both teachers. As a Sikh, Gurinder learned the principles of seva, which means selfless service for altruistic purposes on behalf of, and for the betterment of a community, early in her life. Gurinder endeavors to make an impact on the lives of those who need it most through her service on the boards of local nonprofits and by working in the community gardens to provide fresh produce to food-insecure neighbors in south Indy.
Professionally Gurinder trained as a physical therapist in India and arrived to work at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan in the early 1990s on an H1B visa. She fondly remembers the day her plane was preparing to land at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and she saw white clouds on the ground. As she stepped outside, the bitter cold Michigan winter wind hit her face and she realized that the white cloud on the ground was snow. Gurinder still is amazed by the snow to this day.
Gurinder earned her post-professional master’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Indianapolis in 1995. In October 1999, Gurinder became a proud citizen of the United States of America. In 2001, Gurinder earned her master’s in public health from the Fairbanks School of Public Health. Since then, she has worked in leadership roles in public health, nonprofit, and most recently in higher education at the University of Indianapolis. Gurinder is the proud mother of two children. She enjoys walking on the canal towpath near the 100 Acre Woods, reading, and doing yoga.
In her role as the CEO of Immigrant Welcome Center, Gurinder focuses on initiatives to increase community-wide awareness of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity that our new immigrant and refugee neighbors bring to the City of Indianapolis. She is excited to work with the board and key stakeholders to clearly describe the impact of barriers and challenges that our new neighbors face and work with policymakers to identify and implement innovative solutions to address these challenges.
Gurinder serves on the board of the Indiana Public Health Association as well as WFYI’s Community Advisory Board.
A life-long language learner, Ginger Kosobucki appreciates the difficulties immigrants face in a culture whose dominant language is not their own. Her work focuses on creating more opportunities for English language learning for immigrants in their workplaces and communities. She has been a board member of INTESOL since November 2021. She is developing a program for immigrants with limited formal schooling and beginning literacy skills.
Ginger earned a BA in French from the University of Vermont and an MA in English (TESOL concentration) from Indiana University. She has lived in five different countries and has been a language teacher for over 20 years. While teaching international students, her interest in community work grew, and she became a volunteer with the Immigrant Welcome Center. In 2019, she led a research team to discover the barriers facing immigrants for learning English, and in 2020 she led the Pathway to Literacy team in developing curriculum, assessment, and classes for beginning learners. She believes that every immigrant deserves access to language learning to thrive in their new culture from their starting points. She agrees with her Eritrean student, who said, “Language is wealth.” Ginger enjoys walking, biking, discovering new places, and visiting family and friends.
Mary Leier grew up in Metro-Detroit where she was exposed to diverse groups of people and cultures. Dedicated to equity and social justice, she is a first-generation college student with a Bachelor of Arts in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Wayne State University. Mary is also a recent graduate from Indiana University with a Master of Public Affairs, concentrating in non-profit management and a focus on international development. During her studies, she worked with a non-governmental organization, a primary school located in Nairobi, Kenya, a local Indiana domestic violence shelter, and was the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator of the Indiana University Campus Farm. Prior to her studies at Indiana University, Mary was a Peace Corps Extension Agent in Cameroon where she learned the difficulty of learning new languages and customs, and the importance of participatory development.
As the Development Manager, Mary is excited to use her experience to help Immigrant Welcome Center grow sustainably to ensure the organization can continue to support communities in welcoming all immigrants while giving them the tools to thrive. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, biking, and practicing yoga. Mary is a native English speaker, an intermediate French and Fulfulde speaker, and is hoping to learn Spanish.
Sergio Roldan was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and relocated with his family to Atlanta, Georgia shortly after the 1996 Olympic Games. Growing up in a multicultural city such as Atlanta influenced Sergio to have a deep appreciation for diversity and a commitment to empowering immigrants to thrive in a new country.
Sergio is a graduate of Georgia State University where he majored in Political Science. During his studies at Georgia State, Sergio quickly developed an interest in global issues, geography, and political philosophy. Influenced by his catholic faith, Sergio is committed to the Church’s social teachings and its ‘preferential option for the poor.’
Professionally, Sergio has worked in the non-profit sector for six years and has implemented his case management experience to assist refugees in finding employment, reuniting unaccompanied minors with their parents, and fighting against homelessness in the Latino community of Atlanta. He has worked to assist victims of domestic violence and other crimes to apply for immigration benefits in Indianapolis.
Before joining Immigrant Welcome Center, Sergio worked at different organizations including, World Relief Atlanta, Lutheran Services of Georgia, the Latin American Association of Atlanta, and the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic of Indianapolis.
In his free time, Sergio enjoys spending time with his wife and two children and traveling to Atlanta whenever possible to visit his siblings and nephew. As an avid soccer fan, he also enjoys playing in recreational soccer leagues and supporting his beloved club, Real Madrid.