Victoria Santos – Co-Director
Victoria Santos has a passion for inclusive, sustainable community and creative approaches to learning and growth. Born in the Dominican Republic, Victoria immigrated to the U.S. at age 11. She is a certified mental health counselor and certified Kripalu yoga teacher. Victoria’s commitment to social justice and service has expressed itself in many forms over the past 20 years, including school-based counseling and community-based enrichment programs for underserved youth, as well as community development in the U.S. and internationally. She co-directs the non-profit Sister Island Project, which promotes diversity awareness, cultural exchange and sustainable development in the Dominican Republic.
Rose Edwards – Co-Director & Co-Founder
Rose is passionate about supporting young women* who are community leaders and changemakers. They believe in the power of building positive relationships between people of differing backgrounds and generations. Inspired by their new-born daughter Amirra, Rose envisioned and initiated the pilot program in 2010 that eventually became Y-WE. Serving as one of its Directors and guiding lights for 10+ years, they remain dedicated to the vision of Y-WE as an organization that centers youths’ needs and involves them as organizational leaders. They graduated from Earlham College in 2007 with a B.A. in Peace and Global Studies. They received the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Award for Peace and Seattle Met Magazine named Rose as Seattle’s “Emerging Leader” for 2015. Rose is committed to assuring that Y-WE will be sustained for Amirra’s generation and the many generations who will follow.
Reagan Jackson – Program Manager
Reagan Jackson is a multi genre writer, activist, and international educator with an abiding love of justice, spirituality, and creating community. Though she grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, Seattle is her home. Reagan is passionate about providing young people with the opportunity to experience something new. To that end she has taken over two hundred youth abroad to Japan, Guatemala, and Mexico respectively. She is an award winning journalist and columnist for the Seattle Globalist. Her other published works include three collections of poetry: God, Hair, Love, and America, Love and Guatemala, and Summoning Unicorns and two children’s book Coco LaSwish A Fish From A Different Rainbow and Coco LaSwish: When Rainbows Go Blue. Check out her podcast at: http://thedeependfriends.libsyn.com
Sonali Jasuja – Co-Program Manager
Sonali first connected with Young Women Empowered as a mentor with the Nature Connections program and fell in love with the powerful intergenerational community of diverse womxn supporting, motivating, and inspiring each other in the outdoors. During this time, she served an AmeriCorps term with Solid Ground teaching nutrition, cooking, and gardening with elementary school students experiencing food insecurity in Seattle Public Schools. Before this, Sonali worked in tech marketing for 3 years after attending Stanford University, where she studied Science, Technology, and Society. Sonali is passionate about empowering youth, holistic health, outdoor learning, and social justice. In particular, she appreciates exploring organic cycles of life as a framework to sustainably participate in our environment and communities as well as to connect more deeply to self and others. Sonali also goes by Neli, feel free to call her either or both!
Rae Parks – Co-Program Manager
After working as an educator and program manager in outdoor schools around the country, Rae returned home to the Seattle area to join Y-WE in 2019. Originally from Snohomish, WA, Rae earned her undergraduate degree from Western Washington University and is working part-time towards her Masters in Leadership for Sustainability through the University of Vermont. She believes in the transformative power of the outdoors as a space where young people can grow as creative, courageous leaders, connect deeply with themselves, others, and the natural world, and build strong communities centered around justice and well-being. When not at Y-WE you can find Rae going on outdoor adventures, reading sci-fi, and trying out new creative mediums.
Sophia Pingul – Operations Manager
Sophia grew up in Brier, WA and moved back to the Seattle area in 2018 after graduating with her Masters of Public Policy and MBA in Nonprofit Management from Brandeis University. Prior to graduate school, Sophia served as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working at a permanent, supportive housing apartment building in Detroit. During her time there, Sophia worked with tenants to build community and develop advocacy channels to empower folks to be leaders in their communities. Sophia was first connected with Y-WE when her sister joined the Y-WE team as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in 2014. She has witnessed the transformative impact of Y-WE and is grateful to be a part this incredible community.
Silvia Giannattasio-Lugo – Donor Relations & Communications Manager
Silvia has developed an extensive background in relationship management and strategic communications. As a first generation American, Silvia is passionate about working with communities through grassroot engagement to organize for equality. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Science from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in Global Communications from the American University of Paris. She has worked in the non-profit, government and private sector creating outreach, communications and social media plans.
Peter Blaustein – Grant Writer & Evaluation Manager
Peter works to foster cultures of compassion, kindness, awareness and social justice. He deeply supports Y-WE’s diverse, vibrant community of girls and women. With a Master’s in Social Work, Peter has engaged in therapy for adults with mental illness, education for children with traumatic brain injury, grant writing and evaluation in school and non-profit settings, and rural community development in the Dominican Republic. Peter co-directs the non-profit Sister Island Project and teaches salsa dance.
Aisha Al-Amin – Development Coordinator
Aisha started with Y-WE in 2015 as a participant and has since been in several Y-WE programs, including interning with one of our summer camps. She has interned or participated with CAIR-WA, Advocates for Youth, Wasat, and Richard Hugo House. She has a deep love for assessing how we communicate in society, advocating for civil liberties, and promoting political education. When she’s not at Y-WE, Aisha can be found at poetry readings, attending class at Seattle Central College, or learning about marine biology.
Tayah Carlisle – Program Coordinator
Tayah is the current Americorps Healthy Futures Program Coordinator. She is ecstatic to return to her home, Seattle, after studying Sociology and Human Services at Loyola University Chicago. While in Chicago, Tayah’s work off and on the university’s campus reflected her passion for working with marginalized communities while cultivating a safe and brave space for growth and healing. She spent 3 years contributing to an intergenerational Womxn of Color collective on Loyola’s campus, facilitating workshops, developing retreats and developing longl lasting relationships. Tayah is very thankful to have found community at Y-WE and is excited to see what the next year brings!
Madeleine Kannan – MSW Intern
Madeleine chose to pursue her second-year MSW field placement with Y-WE because she found a close alignment between Y-WE’s mission and her professional interests in social justice work, empowerment through the arts, and programs by and for women/trans/nonbinary folks. She hopes to learn from everyone at Y-WE and explore new ways of connecting with youth. Madeleine is passionate about combining creative arts with healing work and tries to make space for painting, writing, and playing music in her personal life.
Gabriela Torres Figueroa – Social Work Intern
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I grew up surrounded by culture, warm communities, and amazing food. While I was doing my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I volunteered in multiple organizations that opened up my perspective on the power of community, this being the major motivation to pursue my Master’s degree in Social Work. I am passionate about human rights, equity, community, and food as a way to bring people together. I chose Y-WE as my MSW field placement because they use an approach that’s creative, healing, and transformative to provide leadership skills and empowerment tools to young women*, building powerful communities as they go.
One favorite memory from my summer was visiting home (Puerto Rico) for two weeks. This trip was meant to re-connect with nature, my chosen family, and myself (as well as speaking completely in Spanish and eating delicious meals!) and indeed, I did. It was the perfect way to end summer, giving me the push I needed to finish my last year of graduate school in Seattle.
Emma Miller – University of Washington Intern
Emma grew up in Battle Ground, WA and moved to Seattle in 2016 to study at the University of Washington. She is currently studying Psychology and Education, Communities, and Organizations (ECO), and will be graduating this December. She is interning with Young Women Empowered because she has a passion for equity, mentorship, education, health & wellness, and community. Emma also works with Live Salted, a non-profit that inspires women to develop their spiritual identities and find their voices. She believes in the power of sharing stories, listening well, and connecting generations. She is very thankful to be learning from the Y-WE staff as she interns with us.
Johnell Payne – University of Washington Intern
Johnell grew up in Washington, DC where she met and married her high school sweetheart in 2010. Well on her way in her career path to become a pharmacy technician, the military was in her husband’s view. After relocating to Seattle, Johnell decided to pursue her educational goals. After completing her associate’s degree at Tacoma Community College, she set her sights on the University of Washington. Currently in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in Education, Communities, and Organizations and interning with Y-WE, she is on a new path of enlightenment that has not only ignited her passion for helping others, but encouraged a sense of self-discovery. She values the many aspects of Y-WE and is passionate to know what it means to be her whole self in a space.