Compiled by staff
Northwest Asian Weekly
Sometimes, improving and maintaining the health of the planet and its people isn’t the most glamorous job. It requires long hours, oftentimes without much thanks.
This makes the accomplishments of Northwest Asian Weekly’s Women of Color Empowered honorees all the more significant. On Sept. 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 18 women will be honored at New Hong Kong Restaurant for their notable achievements in environmentalism.
For the past 17 years, Maria Batayola has worked with the environmental movement to strengthen their agencies, understand and respond to racism, and become more cross-culturally competent.
Her most moving experience working with environmentalists was when she was loaned to the Seattle Public Utilities Household Hazardous Waste project planning team to reach immigrants and refugees. She guided the group in deconstructing their research and program development paradigm to make it more inclusive and cross-culturally competent.
The project was a finalist for the City Works Team Award.
Research Scientist and Outreach Coordinator
SoundCitizen, UW School of Oceanography
Amanda Bruner earned her Master of Science from the University of Washington (UW) School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science, where her research focused on the biological impacts of a common aquatic contaminant. Bruner co-founded the UW student chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science and helped design a culturally responsive environmental science curriculum as a National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellow.
In her current position within SoundCitizen, Bruner works with the public to research how chemicals from everyday household products travel into Puget Sound.
Director of Government Affairs
Cascade Land Conservancy
Leda Chahim oversees Cascade Land Conservancy’s government affairs, guiding the organization’s outreach, communications, and community organizing activities to advance state and federal conservation and community building policies. Most recently, she led the campaign to establish the Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program, which marries urban revitalization efforts in the central Puget Sound with the conservation of potentially hundreds of thousands of acres of working farms and forests.
The Danny Woo Garden
Named after a member of the Woo family that has leased the property to InterIm CDA since 1975, the Danny Woo International District Community Garden is a special urban park in the heart of downtown Seattle, and the largest green space in the Chinatown/International District.
The 1.5-acre garden provides community gardening space, picnic benches, public art, and walking trails. InterIm CDA manages this urban space, coordinating hundreds of volunteers every year to maintain and improve the Danny Woo Garden.
UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
Dr. Lekelia Jenkins earned her doctorate from Duke University by pioneering a new field of study into the invention and adoption of marine conservation technology. Since then, she has worked as an environmental consultant for the Natural Resource Defense Council, while actively participating in the burgeoning field of Studies in Expertise and Experience.
Her research interests center on the rigorous, empirical study of the process of conservation in order to distill conservation theory and codify best practices, specifically exploring marine conservation, bycatch, conservation technology, invention, technology transfer, and diffusion of innovations.
Founder and Director
Urban Wilderness Project
Jourdan Keith is the founder and director of Urban Wilderness Project and a co-founder of Urban Wilderness Foundation. A 2001 NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) graduate, she is committed to increasing access to the outdoors for youth and adults.
She has worked to restore the West Duwamish Greenbelt as a naturalist and through the University of Washington’s Restoration Ecology Network, Urban Wilderness Project, and the Nature Consortium. She brings her knowledge of ecosystems and certification as a Washington Native Plant Steward to the project planning and maintenance of restoration sites.
Director of Planning and Environmental
Port of Seattle
Elizabeth Leavitt has more than 30 years of experience in the environmental and aviation fields.
She represents the Port of Seattle as the director of Aviation Planning and Environmental Programs, where she is responsible for managing the group that delivers comprehensive planning and environmental services for Sea–Tac International Airport.
Before joining the Port of Seattle, she was a regulator and consultant, as well as California Institute of Technology’s leader of Environmental Management at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Low-Income Housing Institute
Sharon Lee oversees a staff of 100 engaged in low-income housing development, management, advocacy, and support services. The Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI) staff has developed more than 3,800 units of rental and homeownership housing in Washington state and owns 1,600 units serving individuals, families, seniors, homeless people, and those with special needs.
Lee is also executive editor of the statewide Housing Washington newsletter and is an advocate on issues of housing justice, housing preservation, and ending homelessness.
Duwamish Bilingual Outreach Coordinator
Promotores Comunitarios South Park
Paulina Lopez is a resident of and activist for the community of South Park in Seattle. Along with community members, business leaders, and youth from the neighborhood, she has worked with city staff members to create the South Park Action Agenda — a compilation of community goals and strategies to achieve those goals.
Lopez, who is fluent in Spanish, also works with Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, a nonprofit formed in 2001 by an alliance of community, environmental and small business groups affected by ongoing pollution and cleanup plans for the Duwamish River.
Got Green’s Women in the Green Economy Project
Tammy Nguyen is a leader in her New Holly community in Southeast Seattle, where she volunteers on multiple committees and provides interpretation for her Vietnamese neighbors. In recent years, she has been known for her leadership role in Got Green — a grassroots group working in Southeast Seattle and beyond.
Nguyen went on to become a founder and community organizer with Got Green’s Women in the Green Economy Project, with the aim of giving voice to the needs and priorities of low-income women and women of color for the green economy as it relates to them and their families.
Division Director, Environmental Health Services Division, King County
Dr. Ngozi Oleru is responsible for leading and managing the environmental health programs serving a population of more than 1.9 million King County residents. The programs include food protection, water and wastewater, solid and hazardous wastes, chemical/physical hazards, vector control, healthy community planning, and all issues related to the living environment.
Prior to coming to Seattle, Oleru was the program coordinator for environmental justice with EPA Region 1 and the director of environmental health for the Boston Public Health Commission.
Savitha Reddy Pathi
Savitha Reddy Pathi has been the Development Director of Climate Solutions since January 2010. Her department is responsible for raising $2.4 million from individuals, foundations, and corporations. Climate Solutions works to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming by galvanizing leadership, growing investment, and bridging divides.
Before joining Climate Solutions, Savitha worked for nearly 15 years in the nonprofit sector — in philanthropic advising, grant-making, fundraising, and fundraising consultation.
In 2009, Pathi was awarded a Brainerd Foundation Fellowship to Social Venture Partners (SVP). She is a member of the 2010 SVP Environmental Grant Committee.
Joyce Pisnanont is the manager of IDEA Space, a program of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority. In this role, she engages and empowers community stakeholders of the International District in building a healthy and vibrant environment.
From October 2003 to June 2008, she worked for the International District Housing Alliance (IDHA), overseeing leadership development and community capacity building projects in the Chinatown-International District, as well as in three Seattle Housing Authority communities.
Prior to moving to Seattle, Pisnanont was employed as a school social worker in the Bay Area.
Director of Programs
Transportation Choices Coalition
As Transportation Choices’ outreach wonder woman, Ranganathan turns the transit bureauspeak into information everyone can understand.
She earned a master’s degree in environmental science from American University, as well as a master’s degree in environmental studies from her native India. She is an avid traveler and loves trying out transit systems in cities around the world.
Transportation Choices Coalition seeks to bring Washingtonians more and better transportation choices — real opportunities to take a bus, take a train, ride a bike, or walk.
Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Director of the Center for Environment Education and Design Studies University of Washington
Dr. Sharon Sutton holds five academic degrees — in music, architecture, philosophy, and psychology. In addition to being a fellow in the American Institute of Architects, she is a distinguished professor of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and an inductee in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Formerly, she was a Kellogg National Fellow, a Danforth Fellow, and president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board.
Sutton, already author of three books and numerous other scholarly and popular publications, has written a new book, “The Paradox of Urban Space: Inequality and Transformation in Marginalized Communities,” released this year by Palgrave Macmillan.
Remediation and Restoration Coordinator
Yakama Nation Fisheries Resource Management Program
Emily Washines is known for completing a video that highlights how the Yakama Nation works to protect resources for future generations.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Central Washington University and her master’s degree in public administration from The Evergreen State College.
Community to Community Development
Emma Zavala-Suarez is a recent graduate of the University of Washington School of Law and has been an instructor at Yunnan University in Kunming, Yunnan, China. She recently left her position as a law associate to pursue a career in medicine, as she is interested in pediatrics and working with under-served communities of color. She continues to be a passionate advocate for farm worker justice.
Community to Community Development is a women-led, place based, grassroots organization working for a just society and healthy communities.
Executive Director and Owner
Zepp Farm, LLC
Jane Zepp had careers in banking, accounting, sales, and marketing before she took the plunge and started her own business, Zepp Farm LLC, in 2008. She was inspired by her grandparents and others and spent much of her childhood in areas surrounded by farmland.
Zepp Farm is a three-acre farm located west of Olympia that sells herbs, vegetables, and small fruits through CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscriptions and its farm stand.
Master of Ceremonies
Vice Chair of the Board of Trustrees
Seattle Community Colleges
Gayatri Eassey is the associate director of external relations for the Career Services Office at Seattle University, where she is responsible for outreach and employer relations. Her wide-ranging public service career includes positions as the executive director of City Year Seattle, an Americorps program, and as special assistant for boards and commissions in the governor’s office.
Eassey’s experience includes work as a trainer for the National Democratic Institute in Amman, Jordan, preparing women to run for elective office.