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Upcoming Events

10.24.19

Becoming Trauma-Informed OPEN DOORS EVENT

6:30 pm / 3925 Willard Farrow Drive, Charlotte, NC, 28215 (Corner of Tipperary and Shamrock)

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ourBRIDGE Staff

Sil Ganzó

Founder / Executive Director

sil@joinourbridge.org

Sil Ganzó is the founder and Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS. Sil moved to Charlotte, NC in 2003 from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sil became involved with refugee and immigrant families in 2010, when she recognized the lack of educational and socio-emotional support for newly- arrived children. She was inspired to create ourBRIDGE; a safe, nurturing, and respectful environment where refugee and immigrant children can learn English, be encouraged to achieve academic excellence and cultural pride, and where their families could feel welcome and embraced as they strive to start their lives anew in the United States.

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ourBRIDGE Board of Directors

ourBRIDGE for Kids is a 501(c)(3) governed by a eleven-member board of directors.

Sil Ganzó

Founder / Executive Director

Sil Ganzó is the founder and Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS. Sil moved to Charlotte, NC in 2003 from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sil became involved with refugee and immigrant families in 2010, when she recognized the lack of educational and socio-emotional support for newly- arrived children. She was inspired to create ourBRIDGE; a safe, nurturing, and respectful environment where refugee and immigrant children can learn English, be encouraged to achieve academic excellence and cultural pride, and where their families could feel welcome and embraced as they strive to start their lives anew in the United States.


As a strong advocate for love, education, respect, and diversity among cultures and people, Sil has received several accolades for her work throughout the years including Charlotte Magazines 2014 and 2018 Charlottean of the Year and was recognized as a “Social Interruptor” by Community Building Initiative in 2018. She also received the 2019 Legacy Award for the work done at ourBRIDGE supporting the education of newly-arrived and 1st generation American children. Both Sil and ourBRIDGE have been widely recognized locally and nationally, with national media coverage and attention. In 2017 Sil was invited by Congresswoman Alma Adams to attend the State of the Union address in Washington DC. Most recently, ourBRIDGE was invited by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to present on how to ensure English Language Learners can have equal access to STEM. Sil continues to work as Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS, driven by her vision to make Charlotte a more welcoming, equitable city for immigrants and refugee families.

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Linda Lang

Literacy Coordinator

Born and raised in Scotland, Linda is a British-trained educator, with 25 years of global experience in special education, remedial therapy, elementary classroom teaching, learning support, and tutoring.

Linda has mentored tutoring staff and volunteers, with responsibility for lesson planning and individual scholastic assessments for literacy and numeracy.

Linda has passionately dedicated her career to educating children of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Linda studied Elementary Education at Dundee University in the United Kingdom, earning a degree in Remedial Education (cum laude) from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

After receiving her teaching diploma in the UK, Linda traveled overseas to hold international appointments at schools in Abu Dhabi and South Africa, including 14 years as a Senior Teacher and Learning Therapist at Crossroads School, a distinguished remedial ‘clinic-school’ in Johannesburg.

In 2011, Linda met our founder Ms. Ganzó and began serving Charlotte-area immigrant and refugee children. Linda has mentored tutoring staff and volunteers, with responsibility for lesson planning and individual scholastic assessments for literacy and numeracy.

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Dima Daher

Board Member

A native of Jordan, Dima Daher migrated to United States and permanently settled in Charlotte, North Carolina in the year 2000. After acquiring a degree in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Dima worked in the Imaging Software industry at LEAD Technologies, Inc. from 2004-2017. There she led the Multimedia department. Dima and her husband continue to live in Charlotte with their two children.

As a Jordanian with a mother of Syrian decent, Dima felt that she could put her Arabic speaking skills to good use when the war in Syria broke out and the influx of Syrian refugees increased. That is when she became involved with the refugee community in Charlotte through organizations such as the CRRA (Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency) and ourBRIDGE for Kids.

Being a migrant herself, Dima knows the challenges that one goes through trying to acclimate and fit into a new culture. She is thrilled to help other families as Charlotte becomes their home.

Scott M. Waybright

Board Member

Scott Waybright is a life-long educator and community volunteer. Scott found his passion for the Charlotte immigrant and refugee community after traveling to Malawi and experiencing the isolation of being different for the first time.

Scott is the Assistant Head of School at Charlotte Country Day School. Prior to serving on the ourBRIDGE board of directors, Scott served on the board of Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency for six years. Scott is also serving on the board of TESFA for Ethiopia.

A native of West Virginia, Scott has degrees from Marietta College (BA in Sports Medicine) and Winthrop University (MA in Middle Level Education).

Jordan Pineda

Board Member

Jordan started his career as a high school English teacher before entering education management. In his time outside of the classroom he has recruited teachers of color and also spent time as an equity coach for first year teachers. He has since transitioned into policy and works with states and localities across the country identifying, aligning, and scaling equity centric policies that impact young people of color. Now based in Washington, D.C, Jordan has continued to lead multiple Charlotte based non-profits from the advisory board level, and remains active in local education reform advocacy..

With a BA in Sociology and Education Equity from Wake Forest University in 2015, his strengths lie in articulating the micro-level effects that macro-level policies have on opportunity youth and their communities. He is currently earning his masters at Harvard University, where he researches pragmatic reform policies that target racially isolated schools.

Emily Yaffe

Secretary

Emily is the Immigrant Integration Specialist for the Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration at the City of Charlotte. She is committed to supporting the success of a diverse, welcoming & globally connected Charlotte. She manages the language access programming, and the City’s Welcoming initiatives.

Becca O'Neill, J.D.

Board Member

Becca O'Neill is an immigration attorney and former social worker. She was raised in Charlotte and is happy to be a part of Our Bridge and other organizations leading the way to make Charlotte a better place. She is committed to reducing systems of oppression and violence in NC and beyond.

Claudia Marra Jacobson

Board Member

I have worked in the counseling field for over 20 years providing mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families. I am a native Brazilian, my passion is to the study of and working with Cultural Diversity and all the challenges, learning experiences, and adversities that come with it.

Lisa Luth

Board Member

Lisa began her career at an ad agency, focusing on client engagement and marketing. After earning her MBA from Vanderbilt University she went to PepsiCo’s Taco Bell division. While there, she received the Presidents Award for creating the first Product Research group. She then went on to head up Marketing for Family Restaurant Group, spearheading a revitalization of a national restaurant chain. Leaving the corporate world behind in 2000, Lisa started a nonprofit in hunger relief, then moved to youth development where she spearheaded the growth of a Girls on the Run council before moving to the national office to head up council growth in the US. When she isn’t working to grow the business, you can find her snow skiing, hiking near her home in North Carolina and spending time with her husband and their four kids.

Manoj P Kesavan

Board Member

Manoj P. Kesavan is an architect/educator/organizer based in Charlotte, NC. He is the Founder and Executive Director of BOOM Charlotte, a multidisciplinary artist collective and non-profit that addresses issues of equity, access and opportunity in the community through innovative & collaborative cultural programming. They create open and inclusive platforms for creative professionals to engage and create social impact at a large scale. Their main program, the annual BOOM festival, was launched in 2016 and has grown into the largest, most diverse gathering of creatives in the city, showcasing the work of hundreds of regional and national artists and organizations. Their other initiatives range from the design of an off-the-grid free rural clinic in Haiti to launching the Pecha Kucha Night series in Charlotte. Kesavan has been a visiting lecturer/panelist/juror at several universities and writes/speaks internationally. He also consults on urban design/planning, community engagement and public art projects.
www.boomcharlotte.org

Emily C. Plauche'

Chair

Emily C. Plauche’ is a CPA who is dedicated to utilizing her financial and operational expertise to build infrastructure and support the financial accounting and procedural needs of nonprofit organizations.

A native of Louisiana, Emily acquired a BS in Accounting from the Honors College of Louisiana State University before pursuing an MSc in International Security from the School of Public Policy at University College London where she focused specifically on which justice institutions are most efficacious in achieving reconciliation between ethnic groups after genocide.

Emily relocated to Charlotte in 2012 to work as an auditor in the Banking and Capital Markets space for PwC before transitioning into the nonprofit sector where she first worked as the Director of Accounting and Subsidiary Controller for Girls on the Run International and now as Accounting Manager for Nuru International, an NGO dedicated to ending extreme poverty in remote, rural areas of Africa most susceptible to violent extremist recruitment.

Although she knows how to be an accountant, Emily’s true passion is for marginalized groups both locally and globally. Emily has volunteered extensively throughout Africa and South Asia and remains involved with the immigrant community here in Charlotte, NC.

Stefania Arteaga

Board Member

Stefania Arteaga is an organizer and strategist who has played a crucial role in advancing immigrants’ rights organizing in North Carolina. Stefania has co-founded the grassroots group Comunidad Colectiva and the immigration legal non-profit the Carolina Migrant Network. For years she has worked on push back the tide of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement collaboration. As an immigrant from El Salvador, she spent years organizing undocumented students, deportation defense campaigns, and toward the successful end of 287(g) in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County. She is a 2019 recipient of the Z Smith Reynolds All for NC fellowship and protagonist in the 2020 Netflix original documentary, Immigration Nation.

Lorraine Elliot

Treasurer

Lorraine Elliot is currently a Risk Analysis Executive in Bank of America’s Model Risk Management's (MRM) team. Prior to her current role, Lorraine worked in the Consumer Front Line Unit, in Corporate Treasury and in other Risk roles. In addition, she has chaired Employee Engagement, Development and Inclusion councils and is active in Employee Networks and mentoring programs.

Lorraine received a B.A. in Economics and Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MSc in Finance from the University of Manchester in England. Before joining Bank of America, Lorraine volunteered with the microcredit operations of Fundación Grameen in Argentina, where she was born.

Lorraine lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and children. She recently joined the ourBridge for Kids board as the Treasurer and previously served as Finance Committee chair on the Carolina for Kibera board. In the Charlotte community, Lorraine was an Advisor to the initial cohort of World Economic Forum Global Shapers, led the St. Gabriel's Refugee Resettlement Ministry (happily utilizing her French with the arriving Congolese family), and is a member of the Women's Impact Fund.

Sil Ganzó

Executive Director

Sil Ganzó is the founder and Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS. Sil moved to Charlotte, NC in 2003 from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sil became involved with refugee and immigrant families in 2010, when she recognized the lack of educational and socio-emotional support for newly- arrived children. She was inspired to create ourBRIDGE; a safe, nurturing, and respectful environment where refugee and immigrant children can learn English, be encouraged to achieve academic excellence and cultural pride, and where their families could feel welcome and embraced as they strive to start their lives anew in the United States. As a strong advocate for love, education, respect, and diversity among cultures and people, Sil has received several accolades for her work throughout the years including Charlotte Magazines 2014 and 2018 Charlottean of the Year and was recognized as a “Social Interruptor” by Community Building Initiative in 2018. She also received the 2019 Legacy Award for the work done at ourBRIDGE supporting the education of newly-arrived and 1st generation American children. Both Sil and ourBRIDGE have been widely recognized locally and nationally, with national media coverage and attention. In 2017 Sil was invited by Congresswoman Alma Adams to attend the State of the Union address in Washington DC. Most recently, ourBRIDGE was invited by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to present on how to ensure English Language Learners can have equal access to STEM. Sil continues to work as Executive Director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS, driven by her vision to make Charlotte a more welcoming, equitable city for immigrants and refugee families.

Salma Villarreal

Family Support Manager

Shani Mann

Community Engagement Coordinator

Shani is the Community Engagement Coordinator at ourBRIDGE and started working at the organization as a Volunteer Coordinator in 2020. She's a first-generation Israeli-American and has called Charlotte home for the majority of her life. She attended UNC Charlotte, where she graduated with a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Sociology. She then spent six years in the corporate world working in IT and renewable energy. At one of these positions, Shani got the opportunity to live and work in Singapore supporting the Asia Pacific sales staff (and ate a lot of delicious food too). Her favorite LERD value is Respect; She believes that respecting the differences in people helps build safe and trusting relationships. Shani enjoys baking and taking way too many pictures of her cats, Leo and Pepper.

Natalie Cowart

Curriculum Director

Natalie is ourBRIDGE Curriculum Director and has been with the organization since 2018. Natalie wrote, designed, and is currently publishing the ourBRIDGE Curriculum that promotes culturally relevant STEAM experiences for English Language Learners. She is originally from Asheville, North Carolina, and holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Florida State University and an MS in Global and International Education from Drexel University. Her thesis is titled The Landscape of Educational Support Services for Refugee Students in Charlotte, NC. She came to ourBRIDGE after almost a decade of working towards educational equity through Teach For America, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, and The School District of Philadelphia. Her favorite LERD value is Education because in the words of Paulo Freire - "There's no such thing as a neutral education. Education either functions as an instrument to bring conformity or freedom". Natalie loves to spend time on the North Carolina coast with her family and (fun fact) has even swum with sharks!

Bella Stechert

Office Manager

Bella is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bella graduated from Queens University of Charlotte in Spring ‘21 where she majored in Communications with a minor in interfaith studies. She is passionate when it comes to listening to others’ life experiences, cultural values, and spiritual beliefs. Bella co-led an interfaith workshop for the staff of ourBRIDGE where she shared important data regarding the transformative power of diversified faiths organizing efforts to support the community. Bella especially admires and backs the passion ourBRIDGE emulates to welcome every neighbor, old and new, to the Charlotte community. She now gets to greet ourBRIDGE kids every afternoon, ensuring they have everything they need while at the center. Bella’s favorite component of LERD is education. Every ourBRIDGE kid gets to enjoy the curriculum with a twist of creativity and a sense of agency over their learning. A fun fact about Bella is that she loves to fill the office diffuser with vibrant scents to brighten our moods!

Kim Rudolph

Financial Officer

Our Financial Director, Kim Rudolph has been in Charlotte for 16 years and happily transplanted from her hometown of Tampa, Florida. As a CPA, she worked as a corporate accountant for 13 years and has worked for Charlotte non-profits since 2013. Kim values diversity and loves getting to know people from different cultures and areas of the globe. Her favorite place to be is outside, communing with nature.

Betsy Ramirez Zepeta

Intern-Social Worker

Betsy is from El Cerro de Nanchital, Veracruz, Mexico. However, she has been living in Charlotte NC for about 22 years. She is a first-generation Latinx female. Betsy is also a Social Work major and will be graduating with a bachelor's and then hopefully on to a master's. Here at ourBRIDGE, Betsy came to find out about being a LERD. The value Betsy feels most connected to is all of them but especially Diversity. Without Diversity, she believes we would all be the same and that’s simply too boring. Betsy believes we are meant to stand out each in our way. A fun fact about Betsy is that she recently became very interested in anime and now the Bridge Kids have named her “Miss Anime Girl”; The nickname has inspired Betsy to show her creative side.

Francina Taveras

Elementary School Coordinator

Francina is a bilingual Montessori educator from the Dominican Republic. She has been living in the United States since 2015. Her journey in education started as an assistant guide and evolved over the years to leadership positions in schools; public and private, and in the nonprofit sector, working with differently abled individuals and their families. Most of her experience in education has been in Early Childhood, specifically with children ages 3-6. Her instructional experience also includes teaching ESL and providing literacy support to lower elementary students. She also taught art and computer skills to upper and middle school students. When thinking about the LERD values; Love, Education, Respect and Diversity, Francina explains that they are intertwined and when education is provided with a social conscious purpose, these values are always present. Francina is passionate about social justice, culture and education, concepts that drive her ideas and work. When sharing about hobbies she noted her appreciation for nature and hikes, fitness and dark chocolate.

Amy Arroyo

K5 Classroom Facilitator

Amy is originally from Baytown, Texas. This is Amy's third year working at ourBRIDGE, she started working with Kindergarten and 1st graders. She now works with first and second graders. Amy's favorite LERD Value is Love because it helps build a community. One fun fact about Amy is that she has watched Hamilton over 30 times!

Emilia Olivera

K5 Classroom Facilitator

Emilia is from Concord, North Carolina. She is currently a full-time student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a degree in Data Science. Her family is from Mexico, particularly Oaxaca and Michoacán. She has a mom, dad, two younger sisters, and a cat that recently moved to Washington from North Carolina. In the past, she has worked as a swim instructor in various locations and has also worked for Wells Fargo. Although she has had different job titles, the one passion that remained constant was working with immigrant and refugee families. It is from this, that she has dedicated herself to volunteering with different organizations in tutoring and immigrant services for a few years. She hopes to continue her work with these organizations as she finishes her education and continues her career. Her favorite LERD value is Diversity; This is her favorite value because it is important to understand that we are all different and that it is an amazing thing. Being able to see the differences in each individual and taking the opportunities to see how those different backgrounds give us a variety of experiences and skills that we can share with the world. A fun fact about her is that she used to play volleyball, soccer, and track.

Jordan Davis

K5 Classroom Facilitator

Jordan has worked in youth development programs since 2010. His experience includes stops at organizations such as the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and Freedom School. Jordan has a passion for literacy and loves ourBRIDGE's emphasis on education. When not at ourBRIDGE, Jordan can be found playing guitar, writing stories, or spending time with his family.

Kevin Jauregui

K5 Classroom Facilitator & Family Support Navigator

Kevin Jauregui is from Eden, North Carolina, and is one of our Classroom Facilitators and Family Support Navigator. Kevin studied Exercise Science and Biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He has continued his studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is currently in his last year of the Masters in Kinesiology program. A son of immigrants, Kevin has always felt connected to the immigrant community through every chapter of his life. Kevin loves spending time with the ourBRIDGE students and getting to know each student individually. His favorite LERD value is respect. He believes every individual, from any walk of life, deserves to be treated with respect and love no matter their background. Fun fact: Kevin traveled to Mexico for the first time with his family to see his extended family this past Summer.

Lili Jaramillo

K5 Classroom Facilitator & Family Support Navigator

Liliana Jaramillo is ourBRIDGE’s 5th-grade Lead Classroom Facilitator and Family Support Navigator Assistant. Lili grew up in Oakboro, North Carolina and she studied at Pfeiffer University, double majoring in Psychology and Human Services and participating in the Women's Volleyball team. During 2018, she interned for ourBRIDGE and has continued her time here because she loves helping the immigrant and refugee communities. Lili's favorite LERD value is Diversity; It stuck out to her because she never knew why she looked different from others in her class when she was younger until she realized what her parents had sacrificed. Lili is happy to share her experiences with the kids so that they know they are not alone. A fun fact about Lili is that in her last year at Pfeiffer, she was able to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and travel to London within her time there!

Man Da Lay

K5 Classroom Facilitator & Family Support Navigator

Mandalay Na was born in Thailand and came to the U.S. in 2009. In 2011, she joined ourBRIDGE program as a participant when she was in 3rd grade and now she is back as our wonderful Classroom Facilitator in Room 3!! Mandalay is a soccer player and her favorite LERD value is Diversity. She believes that everyone at ourBRIDGE is diverse. Mandalay loves learning new things and experiencing different cultures. One fun fact about Mandalay is that she once owned 5 cats.

Maria Rubio

K5 Classroom Facilitator

Maria Rubio is the daughter of two Mexican parents and a PT facilitator at ourBRIDGE. Maria enjoys working with the K-1 students and learning from them every day. She cherishes every moment she gets with each student. Maria loves hearing them coming into class with laughter and sharing about their day at school. The work Maria does at ourBRIDGE is helping students with homework, school projects, and hands-on learning. Not only does OB do homework, but also educational activities. Maria states that they also get to go outside to have snacks and play with each other. No matter what language they speak, every student includes each other in every activity and supports each other. Maria’s favorite L.E.R.D value is Love because of the strong love she puts into her work at ourBRIDGE and the love she holds towards the students. She loves seeing each student smile, laugh and loves receiving the drawings they do for her. One fun fact about Maria is that she speaks three languages which include English, Spanish, and Otomi (Oto-Pamean Language, known in Mexico)

Natalia Aguilar

K5 Classroom Facilitator

Natalia Aguilar is a Lead Classroom Facilitator and is also a Development Assistant at ourBRIDGE. She is a Salvadoran-American and a Charlotte native but her parents were both born and raised in El Salvador. Natalia is a first-generation student who currently attends the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in pursuit of a bachelor's in Social Work. Before ourBRIDGE, Natalia had always been involved with children; In high school, Natalia worked at an afterschool organization with children for 4 years and also tutored elementary school kids at the local library. Natalia’s favorite part of being a Lead Classroom Facilitator is being able to create memories with the kids, especially when they try something new. Natalia’s favorite LERD value is Diversity because of the different perspectives it provides. A fun fact about Natalia is that she owns a Honda s2000 and recently learned to drive a manual car over the summer!

Nate Burch II

K5 Classroom support & Driver

Rubi Orduna

K5 Classroom support & Driver

Thin Thin

K5 Classroom Facilitator & Family Support Navigator

Thin Thin finished high school in Burma in 2000. She then continued her education by getting her Bachelors of Science B.SC (Physics) in 2005. Thin Thin also got a Diploma of Accounting from the UK in 2003. In Burma, Thin Thin worked as an accountant, and as an HR assistant in Malaysia. She also got a GED in 2017 in the US and a CNA and a CPR certificate. For the past 10 years, she has supported ourBRIDGE with her leadership, allowing ourBRIDGE to reach to and provide resources to hundreds of Burmese families in Charlotte. Thin Thin’s favorite LERD value is Love because if people loved each other, there would be no fighting in the world and it would be very peaceful. In addition to now being a Classroom Facilitator, a Family Support Navigator, Thin Thin is also the mom of two Bridge Kids!

Andrea Romero

Middle School Coordinator

Andrea is a trilingual educator and the Our Bridge Middle School Coordinator. Andrea grew up in Miami and comes from Cuban, Mexican, and French heritage. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor's degree in International and Global Studies and a minor in National Security and Intelligence then attended Johns Hopkins University and earned a Master's of Science in Educational Studies. She began her journey in North Carolina as a 2018 Teach for America teacher and focused on providing equitable and quality education for all students and continued her work in non-profit operations and development. Andrea has a love for technology and expanded her education by pursuing a professional certificate in software engineering with MIT. Her favorite LERD value is education because she believes, as Malcolm X said, it is the “passport to the future.” In her free time, Andrea enjoys tutoring, reading, and traveling around the world!

Simone Atkins-Bostic

Classroom Facilitator

Simone went to school at North Carolina A&T State University and obtained her Bachelor's in Animal Science. Her passion is art and doing arts and crafts is her favorite part of the day, because it creates a space for the kids to be able to be themselves and make something of their own. A fun fact about Simone is that her family has a farm with chickens, goats, and two llamas! Her favorite LERD value is love; Working at ourBRIDGE for a few years has shown Simone that creating a loving and positive environment for the kids allows them to grow and love themselves and those around them even more.