Since joining Refugee Transitions in 2001, Laura has shown dynamic, visionary leadership through expanding the agency’s scope and power to transform lives. She has grown Refugee Transitions from a two-office, home-tutoring agency serving 100 newcomers in San Francisco to a multi-site agency with nearly 2,000 students in San Francisco, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties. To achieve this, Laura has focused our efforts on several priorities. Under Laura's leadership, Refugee Transitions forged strong partnerships with school districts, nonprofits, and city and county agencies throughout the Bay Area. She led the development of our state-of-the-art English language and family literacy programs that help newcomers attain the life, job, and academic skills they need to become productive U.S. citizens. She also spearheaded our work to recruit, train, support, and retain a large force of creative and dedicated volunteers.
Laura holds an undergraduate degree in international relations with minor degrees in economics and Spanish from the University of Minnesota, as well as a Master's degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages from San Francisco State University. She has over 16 years of overseas and domestic classroom teaching experience and has taught English literacy and citizenship courses at City College of San Francisco as well as academic writing at San Francisco State University. Laura designs the Refugee Transitions' curriculum, oversees all programs, and develops trainings and presentations. She takes inspiration from the diverse communities in the Bay Area, and continues to learn so much from them.
After-School Program Coordinator and Program Manager
Joyce joined RT in August 2015 as the After-School Program Coordinator at San Francisco International High School in the vibrant Mission District. She has over 13 years of ESL and ELL teaching experience, and has taught at the elementary, junior, and high school levels. Prior to joining RT, Joyce spent over 10 years in Japan, where she obtained the bulk of her experience in education. As an immigrant herself, she is especially passionate about working with the recent immigrant youth who comprise the student body at SFIHS. Joyce received a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations, and a B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. She was a candidate for the CalStateTEACH Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the California State University at Monterey Bay from 2001-2002.
Associate Manager of Volunteers and Programs
Nicole joined Refugee Transitions in August of 2011 to fill the position of Volunteer and Program Coordinator. She recruits and trains the agency's many volunteer tutors. Nicole was introduced to the international humanitarian sphere while volunteering at an orphanage in Bulgaria, where she taught ESL and coordinated enrichment activities. Prior to joining Refugee Transitions, Nicole worked with the International Rescue Committee in Oakland, where she developed a deep connection to the East Bay refugee community. Nicole received her B.A. in political science from UC Santa Cruz, with a concentration in international studies, and holds a Masters Degree in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco.
Senior Development and Communications Coordinator
Julia joined RT in 2014 as the agency's Development and Impact Coordinator. She coordinates development projects, including the annual fundraising event and end-of-year appeals. She works on grant proposals and funder reports as a content coordinator, writer, and editor. Julia oversees the agency's impact data. She is the RT's Salesforce system administrator, taking care of the setup, reporting, and mass data uploads. Julia administers communications systems, such as the RT website (Squarespace), newsletters (Constant Contact), and social media. Prior to joining Refugee Transitions, Julia worked as a content editor for Wcities.com in San Francisco, coordinating the creation and editing of large volumes of event and travel-related content.
Development and Program Associate
Jyoti immigrated to the U.S. in 2009 from Nepal as a Bhutanese Refugee. She went to Oakland International High School and was a Peer Tutor in RT's after-school tutoring. After graduating from OIHS, she continued to join forces with RT as an Alumni Tutor and Intern. She graduated in May 2016 from San Francisco State University with a B.S. degree in Business Management. She began to work as a Development and Program Associate in June 2016. She assists with fundraising and communications, as well as adult, youth, and volunteer programs. Jyoti is a recipient of the 2017 Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Award for Youth Leadership.
San Francisco Program Coordinator
Grace Lau, an immigrant from Hong Kong, began working with Refugee Transitions as a Program Coordinator in September 2008. She works primarily with the Asian Pacific Islander community in San Francisco and to this end, contributes her intimate knowledge of China, its culture, and the challenges immigrants face resettling in the U.S. Grace supports families enrolled in Refugee Transitions’ home-based tutoring and mentoring programs, and she is the key staff person involved in coordinating services with the Chinatown Neighborhood Workforce Center, helping clients access job opportunities and training programs in San Francisco. Grace received a B.A. degree in accounting from the University of Hawaii.
Zar Ni Maung
Senior Family Resource Coordinator
Zar Ni Maung began at Refugee Transitions in March 2008 as the agency's Family Advocate. Zar Ni focuses primarily on supporting volunteers and newly arrived refugee families from Burma, linking them to services and providing tutoring for youth. Zar Ni grew up in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma. As a university student, he was active in the student democracy movement. When the military crackdown began, he and his family had to flee the country. They first fled to Accra, Ghana where they lived for three years before being resettled in Daly City as political refugees. Zar Ni is active in many Burmese community organizations and has helped organize numerous events to raise money and awareness for the Burmese community. Through his work at Refugee Transitions, he is able to fuel his passion for serving refugee populations. Zar Ni is the proud father of two young sons, and in their free time, they enjoy exploring the Bay Area together.
Coordinator of Volunteers and Academic Support Programs
Xavier Meza joined Refugee Transitions in 2016 as the Coordinator of Volunteers and Academic Support Programs at Oakland International High School. Xavier is a lifelong advocate for empowering immigrant students in secondary and post-secondary education. As a community college student, Xavier was elected to represent 14 community colleges in Southern California by the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC). He lobbied for immigrant rights, affordable education, and increased accessibility to mental health services. More recently, Xavier was an Instructional Assistant at Oakland International High School, where he mentored, tutored, and taught recently arrived refugee and asylee students. Xavier graduated from UC Berkeley, where as an Interdisciplinary Studies major he studied Mathematics, Education, and Sociology. In his spare time, Xavier enjoys listening to music from around the world, and is an avid Iranian daf drummer.
Yesenia was born and raised in Watsonville CA. She graduated from San Francisco State University in 2016, with a B.A. in Latina/o Studies and a minor in Race and Resistance Studies. She is passionate about grassroots organizing, and bringing light to systemic injustice in the United States. Being from a family of immigrants herself, she is excited to be working with, and helping the students of San Francisco International High School.
Social Adjustment Counselor
Sandra joined RT in June 2016. She is the first gneration in her family to attend college. She received a B.A. in Sociology & Education from UC Santa Cruz. After working with a high population of refugees and asylees at Catholic Charities of the East Bay, she grew fervor to guide and help newly arrived and low-income families. It quickly became apparent that Sandra not only shared a deep passion for helping refugees, but also cared deeply for the community that she served. Sandra also became a mentor for adolescent girls from her community located in the San Antonio district in Oakland. Working at Refugee Transitions allows her to expand her knowledge and provide tools that can improve ways for families to stabilize and navigate in a new country that they will call “home”.
Education Associate Manager
Sonia joined Refugee Transitions in July 2014 as the South Bay Education Coordinator. In our South Bay location, she recruits and trains volunteers for home-based tutoring and provides them with ongoing support. She manages English language classes for adults in San Jose and works on curriculum development with RT’s San Francisco Education Associate Manager. She also helps oversee the Department of Education Adult English Language and Family Literacy (AEFLA) Grant with the Executive Director. Prior to joining the staff, Sonia was an Elementary School Teacher in Union City, CA. She taught English in China and Thailand, which led her to the interest in becoming a volunteer with Refugee Transitions as a tutor. Sonia received a B.A. in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State University.
Education Associate Manager and Language Instructor
Dion joined Refugee Transitions in 2014, after teaching several English language classes as a contracted teacher in the Tenderloin and Mission Districts. She has a B.A. in Social Thought and Political Economy from the University of Massachusetts and an M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from San Francisco State University with a focus on literacy development. She became interested in working with immigrants and refugees while teaching at an innovative and community-oriented elementary school in Tucson, Arizona.