who we are

our board of directors

Matthew Norman, Board Treasurer and Interim Board President

Matthew is Vice President and Treasury Relationship Manager with Union Bank Commercial Treasury Services. His group focuses on the cash management needs of middle market and corporate clients based in the Pacific Northwest. Matthew manages a portfolio of deposit and treasury management relationships. Matthew graduated from Chapman University in Orange, California. He earned a B.A. in political science with an emphasis in international relations. He also volunteers regularly with local organizations that support higher education, social justice, and fight youth homelessness.

Pooja Srinivas, Board Secretary

Originally from Nashville, TN, Pooja attended the University of Virginia for her B.A. in Spanish and Economics. She then worked in finance and consulting for five years prior to pursuing her M.B.A at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor. In 2016, Pooja moved to Seattle to join Amazon where she spent two years as the category manager of two Retail marketplaces: Rugs and Upholstery. Most recently, Pooja has transitioned to Product Management where she works with engineering teams to build technologies that support the Amazon Go business. Pooja is passionate about education and how it can uplift people in varying circumstances. Pooja is married to an SEA volunteer Eric, has two kittens, and enjoys cooking and hiking for views and adventure.

Chelsea Hicks

Chelsea is an attorney with Northwest Justice Project’s King County Consumer, Housing, Education, and Employment Rights (CHEER) Team. Chelsea also serves on the Affordable Housing Committee of the King County Growth Management Planning Council, volunteers at the King County Housing Justice Project in Kent, and serves as a student mentor with the University of Washington School of Law Student Legal Services program. Chelsea graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 2008. While pursuing her law degree, Chelsea interned with non-profit organizations serving low-income clients at Seattle Community Law Center and Alaska’s Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Additionally, Chelsea volunteered weekly as a drop-in center volunteer at Lambert House, King County’s GLBTQ teen center. Prior to joining NJP, Chelsea worked for over three years at Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), a non-profit legal aid organization, where she represented low-income clients in a variety of areas including home foreclosure defense, public benefits, landlord/tenant, consumer protection, real property, and family law. In addition to her work with ALSC, Chelsea worked as a domestic violence advocate at the Alaska Family Services domestic violence shelter in Palmer, Alaska. Chelsea conducted intakes with domestic violence victims, answered crisis calls, and oversaw the daily operations of the shelter.

Cina Littlebird

Cina (Laguna Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo) was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM. After graduating from Stanford University with a J.D./M.A. Education, she moved to Seattle to join Northwest Justice Project’s Native American Unit as an attorney supporting Native American students and their families across the state. Prior to pursuing her graduate degrees, Cina interned with a New Mexico non-partisan think tank, worked as a youth corps leader with an environmental non-profit, taught English in Thailand, and danced professionally with the all-indigenous contemporary company, Dancing Earth. She is passionate about breaking cycles of inequity through making the invisible visible and still tries to incorporate dance into her professional life whenever possible.

Ganita Musa

Ganita was born and raised in Ethiopia and currently works at Community Health Plan of Washington. She graduated from University of Washington Tacoma in 2015 with Bachelors in Social Welfare and Minor in Global Engagement and in 2016 with Masters of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Washington. She completed her MSW practicum/internship at Denny International Middle school through a school-based community organization, providing mental health counseling and care coordination for students not doing well behaviorally and academically. Ganita interned with Downtown Emergency Service Center with people experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, and suffering from substance use disorders. After graduation, Ganita worked as a child and family therapist for Southwest Youth and Family Services where she visited elementary, middle, and high school students who were having a difficult time in traditional school settings. She volunteers with United Way King County to assist low-income people with free tax preparation and participates in Day of Service at Seattle Center to provide health and dental access for low-income people. In her roles, Ganita has learned that social, educational, and economic injustice is bigger that she initially thought. Coming to United States as a refugee and not knowing the language or how to navigate the education system was a challenge. Because of Seattle Education Access and other nonprofit organizations dedicated to assisting those who are unprivileged, Ganita has achieved her dream of earning higher education degrees. Now, she feels, it is her turn to give back by working with SEA and at Year Up. When not working or volunteering, she loves cooking and spending time with my family.

Mohammad Jama

Mohammad was born in Fairfax, VA and spent his formative years in Ann Arbor, MI before attending the University of Michigan for both undergraduate and graduate engineering studies. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering in 2016 and earned a Master's degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering the following year. Mohammad graduated with the highest honors, summa cum laude, from the Engineering Global Leadership Honors Program at Michigan. After completing school, Mohammad moved to Seattle to begin as a Sourcing Engineer within Devices (Surface and HoloLens) at Microsoft. A self-proclaimed learn-it-all, Mohammad is keen on education, engineering & technology, business models, podcasting, and ultimate frisbee.

Steve Marty

Steve has been with UW Medicine for over 20 years and is currently the Business Operations Director for UW Medicine Human Resources. He is married, has two teenage children, and two cats. He discovered a talent for fundraising while his kids were at St. Matthew School, which eventually led to his involvement with SEA. He enjoys racquetball, swimming, politics, binge watching March Madness with his dad, and playing League of Legends with his son.

Dr. Thomas Staiger

Thomas is the Medical Director of the University of Washington Medical Center and a general internist at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is active in the Society of General Internal Medicine and chairs the society’s Clinical Practice Committee. His academic interests include the evaluation of low back pain, physician-patient communication, and educating physicians regarding leadership and quality improvement. He is married, has three children, and enjoys sailing, skiing, hiking, and music. He currently serves as Audience Engagement Lead.

staff

Laura DiZazzo, Executive Director

Laura joined SEA as Executive Director after 15 years of educational leadership in community colleges and non-profits. She served as the Dean of Basic and Transitional Studies at Seattle Central College from 2012-2019. She also served as Dean of the Language, Academic Skills, and Wellness Division at Green River College from 2007-2012. Prior to moving to Washington state, Laura served as the Academic Director of the Carlos Rosario Career Center in Washington, DC. Her administrative background is built on a foundation of being an instructor in adult ESL and GED classrooms. Laura has a masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Salisbury University and a bachelors in International Relations from Boston University. Laura’s personal and professional pathways are a daily reminder for her that education is transformational. She cherishes spending time with her family, hiking, gardening, reading, and practicing ninja moves with her five year old.

Katy Childers, Development and Finance Director

Katy directs SEA’s fundraising, communications and marketing efforts. With over 10 years of non-profit program and development experience, she has worked with Jubilee Women’s Center, Conservation International, Global Partnerships and the Bainbridge-Ometepe Sister Islands Association. She holds a master's in public administration specializing in non-profit management from the University of Washington. Outside of work, Katy enjoys gardening, circus arts, and running.

Jeff Corey, Program Director

Jeff has been working for non-profit organizations in Seattle for over 10 years. Prior to SEA, Jeff worked with the Street Outreach Service’s Syringe Exchange program and the Capitol Hill Homeless Youth Case Management Program. Jeff is a co-founder of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA), which operates the University District Syringe Exchange. He holds a master's in public administration from the University of Washington. In addition to his work, Jeff enjoys soccer, working with PHRA, and spending time with his amazing partner, VeraEve.

Danika Martinez, Program Director

Danika works with partner sites, such as Career Link, South Seattle College, Highline College and Big Picture High School. Danika received her MSW from the University of Washington in Community-Centered Integrative Practice and takes interest in anti-oppressive practice, dialogic social justice models, youth empowerment and digital storytelling. She has worked with youth and young adults of all ages over the last several years from her work in different Seattle-based organizations. In her spare time, Danika loves spending time with her family in Eastern Washington and hanging out with her dog Maya.

Angela Pierce, Program Manager & Education Advocate - Auburn

Angela is the Education Advocate serving in Kent and Auburn. Angela is an alumna of Pacific Lutheran University with a B.A. in social work. She grew up in Tacoma, Washington, as a low-income student herself where she received assistance from various organizations and mentors that helped her not only get into college but be able to afford college. She has been inspired from her own experience to assist other students in gaining access to higher education. Before she was an Education Advocate, Angela was an AmeriCorps tutor at SEA assisting students in preparing for their GED and Compass tests. Aside from SEA, Angela is an active community organizer with the Filipino-American organization Anakbayan Seattle. She enjoys hiking, playing with her puppies, and traveling.

Amy Mckenzie, Education Advocate – East King County

Amy is the Education Advocate on the Eastside and graduated with a BA in English and a MFA in Writing. Prior to SEA, Amy taught high school in Orlando, Florida and coordinated a youth homeless shelter on Seattle’s Eastside. She is passionate about empowering young people to achieve their hopes and dreams through education. Amy enjoys traveling to places she's never been and hiking with her dog!

Clinton Parrilla, Education Advocate – South Seattle

Clinton Parrilla is a first-generation college student from South Seattle, Washington. Clinton earned his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences degree from Washington State University. Prior to joining Seattle Education Access, he was an Americorps Member with College Access Now as an 11th and 12th Grade College Coach, where he worked with high school students at Mount Rainier High School and helped mentor and guide them through the college process. Clinton’s values lies in his rooted experience in his community and wanting to continue the mentorship of young people as he received the same mentorship that helped him become who he is today. Outside of the workplace, Clinton has deep passion for sports, movies, and superheroes/comicbook world!

Cooper Metz, Education Advocate – North Seattle

Cooper is the Education Advocate serving the North Seattle Region. In 2012 she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Washington-Seattle where she double majored in Psychology and Sociology. After graduating, Cooper spent 6 years working as a Behavior Technician at a K-12 inclusion school for students on the autism spectrum. There she worked one-on-one with students to help them achieve progress on academic, social, and behavioral goals. Through her experiences she developed a passion for providing individualized support to students and encouraging the development of self advocacy skills. She also realized the importance of acknowledging that progress looks different for each individual and that it is important to celebrate every tiny step along the way to achieving your goals.

Dulce Sigüenza, Development Manager

Dulce focuses on coordinating and managing SEA’s fundraising events and community outreach opportunities. Prior to SEA, Dulce worked with middle, high, and college students for five years. Most recently, she worked at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Dulce is an immigrant herself and is passionate about advocating for human rights. She is a University of Washington and SEA alumna and served on SEA’s Student Advisory Board and later on SEA’s Board of Directors. During her spare time, Dulce enjoys exercising, watching movies, shopping, and spending time with her loved ones.

Hansell Torres, Education Advocate -Seattle Central

Hansell Torres is an Education Advocate at Seattle Central College. Hansell is an immigrant from San Jose, Costa Rica. After arriving to Washington, he grew up in a small town close to Bellingham, WA. Hansell earned his Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages and Cultures with an emphasis in Political Science and Sociology. Hansell grew up understanding what it’s like to be a low-income, first-generation college student. Prior to joining Seattle Education Access, he worked at Federal Way Open Doors as a Re-Engagement adviser, where he helped high school students explore their passions and future goals. Hansell is dedicated to helping students navigate post-secondary education and fighting institutionalized racism. Outside of the workplace, Hansell enjoys to sing karaoke, traveling (when possible), hanging out with friends/family and spending time with his cat Knyx.

Jerry-Lee Bulala, Education Advocate - Auburn

Jerry is an Education Advocate for the Auburn area and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Chinese Studies. Prior to coming to SEA, Jerry spent three years with the Act Six Tacoma-Seattle Leadership Scholarship program in Tacoma as an AmeriCorps member for two years and one year as Program Coordinator. He is passionate about working with students as they plan and navigate their future in education as a first-generation student. Outside of SEA, Jerry enjoys dedicating time outside by hammocking and growing in his knowledge and practice of Wilderness Medicine.

Kanza Hamidani, Education Advocate – Central & South East Seattle

Kanza is an Education Advocate serving in the Central and South East Seattle region. Kanza earned a BA in Social Welfare with a Minor in Education from the University of Washington Tacoma, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work at University of Washington Seattle. As a Muslim Pakistani American, Kanza recognizes that there are gaps within the education system in regards to supporting underrepresented and underserved students. Kanza’s passion is to work to bridge these gaps by supporting students as they navigate and pursue their post-secondary degree.

Kecia Weltz, Education Advocate – Shoreline & North Seattle

Kecia is the Education Advocate for the Shoreline and North Seattle regions. She earned a BA in Sociology and Reconciliation from Seattle Pacific University in 2016. Prior to SEA, Kecia worked with families, at an adoption agency, as they navigated the foster care system in King County. Kecia is fully committed to providing support for students, while they pursue their education goals and career aspirations. Outside of work, Kecia enjoys exploring the city of Seattle and spending time with friends and family.

Konto Southisombath, Education Advocate – Federal Way

Konto is the Education Advocate for the Federal Way region. She graduated with a BA in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego. Growing up low-income and a daughter of refugees, Konto knows firsthand the importance of community involvement and social support. She is passionate about working with communities of color and deconstructing systems of social, economic, and educational inequity. In her spare time, Konto loves to travel to new places, cook delicious food, and watch all kinds of documentaries and shows on Netflix.

Miski Ugas, Education Advocate - Central & South King County

Miski is an Education Advocate supporting the central and south King County regions. Miski was raised in Burien, WA and she attended the University of Washington – Seattle and obtained her bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Miski has worked with many different local organizations supporting low-income students and families impacted by poverty. Miski is passionate about supporting individuals and families in obtaining independence, building healthy support systems, and navigating institutional barriers. Miski enjoys learning how to play guitar, songwriting, writing poetry, and learning about trauma informed healing practices.

Neena Viel, Community Engagement Director

Neena has over five years of experience in development, communications and volunteer management. Prior to joining the SEA team, Neena held positions at College Access Now, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Neena is a first-generation college graduate and holds a masters in public service from the University Of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Neena loves reading and managing her book club, and scaring herself with spooky movies.

Nicollette Roe, Education Advocate - Renton

Nicollette is the Education Advocate for the Renton area and graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Integrated Social Science studying people and communities globally. Nicollette has always had a passion for education working with early learners and their families all the way to higher ed. Coming from a low-income family, being a first generation college student, single mother and learning to self-advocate for herself throughout her college career she is dedicated to providing support for students to try and lessen the barriers in place in pursuing a post-secondary degree. Nicollette values equal opportunity and access for all students to receive a quality education and believes education is a human right. She enjoys eating all kinds of different foods, travel, and spending time with her daughter Coco!

Savanna Willis, Education Advocate – West Seattle & Burien

Savanna is the Education Advocate serving in West Seattle & Burien region. She is a Seattle native, having been born and raised in south Seattle. Savanna is an alumna of Arizona State University with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. She also received her Masters of Science in Professional Counseling from Grand Canyon University in Arizona. While in Arizona, Savanna worked as a Behavioral Health Therapist before moving back to Washington, where she worked as a licensed therapist through a school-based community organization, providing mental health counseling and care coordination for students not doing well behaviorally and academically. Savanna took interest in SEA when she noticed the intersection between mental health and education, especially in regard to access to post-secondary education and the unique way SEA is helping to bridge these gaps. When not working Savanna enjoys traveling, watching movies, and fanning over anything that involves cats or Beyoncé.