Our Staff

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.

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.

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, Home Alone Safety, Student and Family Advocacy, and Summer Literacy. 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 based approach. 

She is an accomplished teacher with over 18 years of experience, both locally and internationally, and holds a Masters in Education from The State University of New York. She has many hobbies such as writing, volunteering in the community, traveling, landscaping and gardening. 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.

Keneisha Gardiner – Manager, Strategic Initiatives

As Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Keneisha is responsible for the research, design, and implementation of new projects at Empowerment Squared. Working collaboratively with staff and board members and in consultation with members of the community and other organizations, her main focus is on developing systems and processes that ensure that programming is sustainable, culturally appropriate, and responsive to the needs of the community. 

Keneisha is an Ontario Certified Secondary School Teacher and holds a Masters Certificate in Project Management from York University. She has worked with youth for more than 20 years in various capacities including as a mentor, tutor, program facilitator, and teacher, and is passionate about helping young leaders reach their full potential. When she isn’t working, she spends her free time cooking for her family and friends, gardening, or curled up on the sofa with a good book.

Lisa-Marie Smith – Manager, Major Gifts

As Manager, Major Gifts, Lisa-Marie is responsible for Empowerment Squared’s fundraising efforts across all platforms and channels, as well as managing relationships with supporters, partners, and team members. A self-admitted data nerd, Lisa-Marie is passionate about the intersection of technology and fundraising, and how technology can be used to leverage engagement. As an advancement professional with over two decades of experience, Lisa-Marie brings her formal and practical knowledge of non-for-profit management and information technology to Empowerment Squared.  

Lisa-Marie is a graduate of Mohawk College’s Computer Systems Technology diploma program and holds a Fundraising and Not-for-Profit Management certificate. She is pursuing a degree at Brock University in Business Communications on a part time basis.  In her ‘spare’ time, you can find her on a paddleboard with her senior rescue labrador, Penny or working on a never-ending list of renovation projects at home.

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 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 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?”

Rose Senat – Coordinator, Community and Volunteer Engagement

As Coordinator, Community and Volunteer Engagement, Rose is responsible for outreach and recruitment support for programs and volunteers through facilitation of various volunteer engagement activities like information sessions. She cultivates trust-based relationships with volunteers and associated partners and assists them in building positive connections throughout their networks. Rose is also responsible for developing and implementing the youth art program and supporting the Manager of Strategic Initiatives with the implementation plan of Empowerment Squared’s School Readiness Academy.

Rose holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from Brock University. With over a decade of working in non-profits in various capacities, she seeks to create spaces for young racialized folks to feel seen, heard and represented. In her spare time, you can find her @shoptakeupspace, doing pottery, geeking over film photography, obsessing over tiny houses and being a plant and cat mom.

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.

Rebecca Morikawa – Student and Family Advocate

As a Student and Family Advocate, Rebecca is responsible for providing educational advocacy and support for the students and families at Empowerment Squared. Working closely with the Leadership Team, she provides educational advocacy and mediation, and collaborates with partner agencies to create culturally relevant programming and support for students and families in need of educational advocacy and empowerment. Her goal at Empowerment Squared is to provide effective advocacy for students and families, and to empower them to reach their fullest potential. 

She is an experienced student advocate who has acted as student’s champion 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, or talking about it to anyone who will listen.

Bethlehem Telahun – Student and Family Advocate

As a Student and Family Advocate, Bethlehem ensures racialized and marginalized members of our community are empowered to achieve success within their community. Working closely with the Managers of Strategic Initiatives and Educational Programming, she collaborates to develop and implement appropriate advocacy pathways to assist students to accomplish academic success. She does this by providing various tools and educational opportunities that empower participants to advocate on their own accord. 

Bethlehem holds a Bachelors in Political Studies from Trinity Western University and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London. When she’s not working or completing her assignments, she runs a small social media platform on instagram where she interviews people from various backgrounds to share their truth called @to.be.platform.