Our Staff

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Leo Nupolu Johnson – Executive Director

As Executive Director of Empowerment Squared, Leo is responsible for leading the organization and ensuring that it is making meaningful and substantial progress toward its mission and vision. Working under the guidance of the organization’s strategic plan and in concert with the board of directors, advisory council, staff, stakeholders, and partners, Leo manages and drives Empowerment Squared’s activities and outcomes.

Leo is active in Canada, Liberia, Ghana, and South Africa. His expertise spans nonprofit management, international development, immigration and resettlement, fundraising, and financial management. He has also served as the President of the Liberian Association of Canada and as a member of several boards of directors, and is a United Nations Fellow. Leo has been the recipient of a Reverend John C Holland Award, the YMCA Peace Medal, the City of Hamilton’s World Citizenship Award and Afroglobal TV’s Visionary Award.

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Priya Goorbarry – Director, Operations and Administration

As Director, Operations and Administration, Priya is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and supervising all administrative and operational functions and activities across all departments at Empowerment Squared. Working closely with the leadership team, she directs organization-wide collaboration on projects, processes, and systems both internally and externally to ensure that Empowerment Squared operations are efficient and effective. Priya strives to promote teamwork, collaboration, and the implementation of best practices across all departments at Empowerment Squared.

She is a seasoned administrative executive with over a decade of experience and holds a Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree from McMaster University. When Priya is not working or with family & friends, she likes being outdoors, exploring and the idea of camping, but first would prefer to try glamping.


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Stacia Vong-Hogeterp – Senior Director, Development
and Community Partnerships

As Senior Director, Development and Community Partnerships, Stacia’s primary
responsibilities include leading the strategic planning and execution of Empowerment
Squared’s fundraising activities, stewardship, grants, events, and partnerships.

Stacia is a passionate champion for social justice and the wellbeing of all people. She
has been contributing to the global effort to empower children, youth, families and
communities to reach their full potential and thrive by tackling injustice, poverty, and
societal barriers.

A values-based leader, Stacia has over 20 years of experience and expertise in
development, stakeholder engagement, financial and operations management.
Stacia enjoys bringing people together through the sharing of meals and building
community with one another.


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Norma Nazi – Controller

As Controller of Empowerment Squared, Norma is responsible for leading the organization’s Finance Department. She is a CPA, and holds a Bachelor (Honors) in Accounting from Brock University. Working closely with the Executive Director, Board of Directors, and the Finance Committee, Norma oversees the organization’s financial planning, and financial operations. Her expertise spans non-profit financial management, taxes, financial planning and statements, budgeting and reporting.

She is an experienced Accountant with over ten years of professional experience in taxes, manufacturing, and the non-profit sectors. Previously, she worked for over 10 years in the travel and tourism industry. Norma serves as a member of the Accounting Program Advisory Committee at Mohawk College, where she acts as a sector expert, and advises program planners and faculty to ensure accounting students are well prepared to enter the workforce. In her free time, Norma loves woodworking, gardening and plants, and enjoys the outdoors and horseback riding with her daughter.


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Ann-Marie Anie – Manager, Educational Programming

As Manager, Educational Programming, Ann-Marie is responsible for creating, planning and coordinating curriculum, managing volunteers and participants, liaising with community members, and supervising administrative and operational tasks for Homework Circle, School Readiness Project, and overseeing the creation of the Career Development Pilot Project. Working closely with colleagues, she directs, manages, and collaborates on projects, processes, and systems to ensure that Educational Programming is efficient and effective. Ann-Marie has a passion for inspiring and empowering others towards being their highest and greatest selves by using an asset and holistic based approach. 

She is an accomplished teacher with over 19 years of experience, both locally and internationally, and holds a Masters in Education from The State University of New York. In addition to teaching in the classroom, Ann-Marie has been a certified yoga instructor for over 5 years. She is also a Board member for Schools of Dreams. She co-authored a unit on Lincoln Alexander for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board which received an award from the Elementary Teachers of Ontario. Currently, she is updating it with a co-author. Some of her interests include vegetarian cooking, writing, and spending time with loved ones.


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Joana Fejzaj – Manager, Community Development & Partnerships

As Manager, Community Development and Partnerships, Joana is responsible for the strategic development, cultivation, and management of relationships with partners and stakeholders. This work spans the across the public, corporate, educational, and private sectors and is focused on fostering support to advance Empowerment Squared’s mission.

Joana earned her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), B.A., Health Aging & Society from McMaster University, and Child and Youth Worker Diploma from Mohawk College. She has held positions at McMaster University, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Wesley Urban Ministries, Immigrants Working Centre, and Settlement and Integration Organization Services (SISO).

Joana is driven by her own lived experiences as an unaccompanied refugee to Canada. When she is not working, she spends her time with her little human Kade, gardening, meditating, thinking about life’s big philosophical questions, connecting with the soul of the world, and pondering “what is my role?”


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Rebecca Morikawa – Manager, Student Navigation 

As Manager of Student Navigation, Rebecca is responsible for leading the Student Navigation Department, which provides collaborative, culturally responsive supports, and systems navigation for the students and families in the education and child welfare systems. In her role, she supports students and families with educational supports, advocacy, and mediation, and collaborates with partner agencies to create systems level change. As part of the Leadership Team, she strives to provide effective and innovative supports for participants in the Greater Hamilton Area, and to empower them to reach their fullest potential.

With over six years of experience navigating public systems, she is a passionate advocate who has acted as a thought leader in cases against public institutions like school boards and government entities. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from McMaster University. If Rebecca is not working or spending time with family, friends and her dog Matilda, she is usually watching football, travelling, watching reality TV, or reading.


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Ian Macpherson – Manager, Strategic Initiatives

As Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Ian is responsible for providing general oversight, leadership, and support for the development, implementation and outreach of programs. He supports the implementation of various initiatives such as the School Readiness Program, ACCESS Program and the Professional Skills and Entrepreneurship program. He is also involved in marketing and communications strategies, curriculum and program development and acting as a liaison with participants, guardians and stakeholders.

Ian developed, launched and supported programs in 150 priority schools to address barriers faced by students and families in the education system in his time at the Toronto District School Board.

Ian is a designer and entrepreneur who thrives on producing creative projects with teams or on his own. Ian has a Bachelor of Design from York University and Sheridan College and a certificate in Community Development from George Brown College that inform his design approach to systems transformation and anti-oppressive community organizing. Ian has a six year old and loves being a Dad. His interests include the arts, design, history, people and culture. He loves being out on his bike, walking on a trail or spending time by the water.


Photo of Joana Fejzaj

Francoise Yesaya-Keddy – Manager, Professional Skills and Entrepreneurship

As the Manager of Professional Skills and Entrepreneurship, Francoise is responsible for planning, supervising, and overseeing the department’s operations. She plays a key role in managing both the overall department and the Southwestern Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network (SWOBEN), including logistics, operations, and communications. Her focus is on ensuring the successful execution of programs, with a priority on advancing the leadership skills and business acumen of Black entrepreneurs in Southwestern Ontario.

Francoise is a seasoned professional, bringing over a decade of experience in the education and non-profit sectors to her role. She holds a Master’s degree in History from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor’s degree in Francophone Literature from the University of British Columbia. Beyond her professional endeavours, Francoise has a deep passion for her faith and family. She enjoys sharing and listening to family stories and fostering connections through these shared experiences.

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Kwbana Beckles – Manager, Sports and Recreation

As Manager for the Ubuntu Athletic Centre, Kwbana is responsible for athletic programming for both recreational and advanced player athletes, indoor gymnasium rentals, social events and ensuring that the Ubuntu Athletic Centre is inclusive and accessible to all of its participants.

Kwbana earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Lee University in Cleveland, TN while on an athletic scholarship.

Kwbana is a driven entrepreneur and has a passion for athletics which enabled him to achieve his goal of playing professional basketball for 10 years in Europe and Asia. While adding to his education with certifications in athletic training, nutrition, strength and conditioning and youth coaching he is very skilled at motivating his athletes. With over 20 years in training athletics, his knowledge base is diverse and always expanding. He was the head Strength and Conditioning performance coach at The Rise Centre in Brantford, ON (Preparatory basketball academy). During his time at The Rise Centre he assisted coaching staff at placing 100% of their student athletes on full academic or athletic scholarships for their post secondary education.

When Kwbana is not on the court with younger athletes you can find him in the weightroom pushing those same athletes out of their comfort zones.


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Emily-Rose Bell – Coordinator, Educational Programming

As Coordinator, Educational Programming, Emily-Rose provides leadership and assistance with Empowerment Squared’s educational programs for youth and adults, as well as other educational initiatives for newcomer and marginalized families. Collaborating with the Manager of Educational Programming and other staff and volunteers, she facilitates educational programs, builds relationships with program participants, and assists with strategic planning, outreach, and administration. 

Emily-Rose is experienced in customer service and has two years of experience as a tutor, feedback specialist, and academic mentor. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Cultural Studies & Classics from McMaster University, and is currently pursuing a Postgraduate Certificate in the Career Development Professional program at Conestoga College. Emily-Rose enjoys exploring various methods of storytelling, through watching and analyzing films, listening to musicals on repeat, and dreaming of writing her first novel – she just has to pick up a pen.


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Colin Grimmond  – Coordinator, Professional Skills and Entrepreneurship

As the Coordinator, Professional Skills and Entrepreneurship, Colin is responsible for the program coordination in the Windsor/Essex County region of the Southwestern Ontario Black Business Network. In this role, he will oversee the development and delivery of various programs & services to Black Entrepreneurs, including workshops, events, as well as those delivered by partner organizations.

He is an accomplished professional with 15 years of proven success as a leader in program development & coordination and vast experience working with diverse cultures & ethnicities. Colin has completed certifications in Serving Youth in Newcomer Communities, DiverseCity onBoard Governance, and Cross-Cultural Communications. As well as, currently enrolled in a MBA in Community Economic Development at Cape Breton University.

Colin has a 5-year-old son, who fills his free time with much joy & excitement. His other interests include reading & researching in Political Theory, Political Economy, History & Theology.


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Faid Adil  Coordinator, Student Navigation

As Coordinator, Student Navigation, Faid works closely with students and families to support their children achieve positive educational outcomes. In addition to working with students and families, Faid collaborates with key strategic partners such as the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board and Children’s Aid Society to ensure the students are well equipped and supported to succeed and reach their full potential.

Faid holds a Bachelor of Social Work Degree from Ryerson University, as well as a Social Service Worker Diploma from Mohawk College. Faid has over 8 years of experience in the non-profit sector with a large focus on newcomer settlement in the Hamilton area. Faid is passionate about learning and facing new challenges that contribute to her growth and success, both personally and professionally. Faid is also very passionate about foods from different cultures, and you can find her reading creepy thrillers or fulfilling her passion for running with local clubs like Air Up There Run Crew and Steel Town Athletic Club.


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Cladette Uyigue  Coordinator, Administration

As Coordinator, Administration Cladette is responsible for providing leadership and assistance with Empowerment Squared’s administration activities and other initiatives for newcomer and marginalized families to further Empowerment Squared’s mission and vision. Working alongside the fellow coordinators and the management team she supports the work of the management team and mission & vision of Empowerment Squared by providing administrative and logistical support.

She is an experienced administrative team lead with strong insights on ensuring organizational operations run smoothly and efficiently. She holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree from Brock University. She is very passionate about all aspects of fitness and general well-being. She loves spending time with her loved ones and creating memories. She enjoys traveling, reading, working out and binge-watching tv shows.


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Emmanuel Tewoderos  Coordinator, Sports and Recreation

As Coordinator, Sports and Recreation, Emmanuel is responsible for planning and coordinating Empowerment Squared’s Sports & Recreation department. Working closely with the Manager of Strategic Initiatives and other staff and volunteers, he facilitates sports programming, builds relationships with participants, collaborates with key community partners, while supervising volunteers.

Emmanuel holds a Bachelor of Sport Management from Brock University. Emmanuel is an experienced Sports and Rec facilitator, who has previously worked at McMaster University in the Athletics & Recreation department.

Emmanuel is passionate about sports, and can be found at the gym, or on the soccer pitch when he is not working at E2. He is also a foodie, and enjoys spending time with his friends and family, and his dog, a Shiba Inu named Misha.


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Natalie Stravens  Coordinator, Volunteer and Community Engagement

As Coordinator, Volunteer and Community Engagement, Natalie works in collaboration with coordinators and the management team with the outreach and administration of the volunteer program at Empowerment Squared. She connects energetic individuals who believe in the mission of Empowerment Squared to the programs in which their skills can be best celebrated.

Growing up in 5 different countries, Natalie developed an interest in culture, which drove her to earn her Honour’s Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Multimedia from McMaster University. She continued this interest through the Public Issues Anthropology Masters Program, with an International Development Specialization, at the University of Guelph. She also holds a graduate certificate in Research Administration from Mohawk College.

Over the last three years, Natalie has worked closely with immigrant needs through her work with international graduate students and advocacy work for Seasonal Agricultural Workers. Natalie is passionate about the idea of storytelling as a form of communication and empathizing with people from different walks of life.


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Lindsay Richardson  Coordinator, Educational Programming

As the part-time education coordinator, Lindsay aids in facilitating Empowerment Squared’s programming in programs such as the Homework Club. Within this role, Lindsay establishes and maintains relationships with participants in the program, inclusive of volunteers and students, and nurtures them to create a positive learning and social environment. Her goal is to create an environment where students are empowered and encouraged to reach their fullest potential, with the support of those around them. Further, she collaborates with the full-time educational coordinator to develop and review the program curriculum before it is delivered to youth.

Lindsay has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from Toronto Metropolitan University, with additional minors in criminology and psychology. She also brings experience within the field, having worked with other social service organizations focusing on outreach, and empowering individuals to reach their fullest potential. Additionally, Lindsay brings multiple years of customer service experience, and a passion for lifelong learning and development, both professionally and personally. In her free time, Lindsay greatly enjoys spending time 5-pin bowling competitively, continuously striving to compete on a national level. She also enjoys crocheting, as well as binge-watching TV shows and spending time outdoors playing games with her family.


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Abigail Mensah  Coordinator, Educational Programming

As a Coordinator, Educational Programming, Abigail brings enthusiasm, dedication and a deep understanding of child development theories and practices and early years education and programming. Abigail has strong interpersonal skills and develops and maintains meaningful relationships with staff mentors and participants. Her goal is to create an environment where people feel safe, comfortable, and, most importantly, have fun.

Abigail has a diploma in Early Childhood Education from Fleming College and a BA in Sociology acquired at Trent University. She brings experiences from the Toronto Catholic and Halton District school boards. She has also worked with other organizations to help foster the development of children and youth. Abigail also has experience in customer service and continues to promote her learning in children with special needs. In her free time, Abigail loves being active and coaching fitness classes. She loves to travel, admire dances on TikTok, watch mystery movies/romance and funny videos, and get-togethers with her family and close friends.