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Meet Our Staff


Linda Sarsour, Executive Director

Linda Sarsour is a working woman, community activist, and mother of three. Ambitious, outspoken and independent, Linda shatters stereotypes of Muslim women while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!” Currently she is the National Advocacy Director for the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) and ACCESS and locally serving as the Director of the Arab American Association of New York, a social service agency serving the Arab community in NYC. Linda is an alumna of NYU Women of Color Policy Network’s Women Leading the Way, Women’s Media Center Progressive Women’s Voices , Opportunities Agenda Communications Institute, honored by the White House in 2011 as a “Champion of Change”, and received the 2010 Brooklyn Do-Gooder Award from the Brooklyn Community Foundation.Linda is also a board member of the New York Immigration Coalition, a coalition of over 200 nonprofit agencies serving the diverse immigrant communities of New York State and the Network of Arab American Professionals-NY Chapter. She has been profiled by PBS, Yahoo News, NY1’s One on One With Budd Mishkin and theGuardian. She has been featured in local, national, and international media speaking on topics ranging from women’s issues, Islam, domestic policy and political discussions on the Middle East conflict. Linda’s strengths are in the areas of civil rights in the context of national security, community organizing, civic engagement and immigrants’ rights advocacy. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Kayla Santosuosso, Deputy Director / Director of Operations

Originally from suburban northeast Ohio, Kayla Santosuosso is a midwesterner at heart, but a New Yorker by trade. A perpetual student of Arabic and an enthusiast of the Middle East, Kayla interned for AAANY while in undergrad at NYU, where she was a Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies major. At NYU she was an Honors Scholar, and was named one of the 15 Most Influential Students, mostly for her work in environmental advocacy. She spent several years leading communications and engagement programs at the NYU Office of Sustainability, and managed sourcing for the Bushwick Food Cooperative in Brooklyn. She also co-founded a catering company for the film industry, which eventually evolved into an environmental consultancy for film production. Before returning to AAANY as Deputy Director, she spent the year working and living in the Middle East, where she led the establishment of an environmental education center in Beit Sahour, Palestine through the Arava Institute. A proud daughter of small-town independent restaurant owners, Kayla is the most in her element when working to build healthier, happier, and more self-sufficient communities. But when she convinces herself to take a break from all that, she can usually be found reading or writing, with a mug of Arabic coffee next to her. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Faiza N. Ali, Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator

Faiza N. Ali is a New York Times profiled community organizer, civil rights activist and diehard Mets fan. As the Advocacy & Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Arab American Association of NY, she continues to explore ways to build community power. A 2011-2012 COR fellow, Faiza worked as an organizer with Brooklyn Congregations United, a faith-based organization seeking to empower grassroots leaders to transform their communities and neighborhoods. She is also the former Community Affairs Director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York (CAIR), America’s largest Muslim civil rights organization. Recognized in 2009 as one of 100 young American Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow, Faiza is a sought after speaker on issues impacting American Muslims on topics ranging from social justice to civic engagement. She has been quoted in and appeared on local, national, and ethnic media outlets including AP, NY1, ABC and the NY Times. Faiza was the recipient of the prestigious 2011 Dr. Betty Shabazz Compass Award given to women who forge a clear direction for their communities. In 2012, was honored alongside 9 other young professionals by Congresswoman Yvette Clarke for extraordinary civic service. Faiza currently sits on the steering committee of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays, helped found the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition and serves on the board of Turning Point for Women and Families. One of the first women from her family to attend college, she is a graduate of Pace University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and forever student of the civil rights movement. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cris Hilo, Youth Lead Organizer

Cris joined the AAANY staff as Youth Lead Organizer in March 2014. For the past six years, Cris Hilo has been educating, organizing, and mobilizing in the diverse communities around immigrant and workers' rights. She is a member of GABRIELA New York and works on issues of violence against women and children, especially human trafficking of migrant women. She had worked at Philippine Forum in Woodside, NY working on youth development and alliance work with worker organizations including jornaleros and street vendors to uphold immigrant rights. Alongside with her organizing in the Filipino Community, she has worked on union campaigns with nurses' and teachers' unions, including the American Federation of Teachers. She finished her undergraduate degree in Natural Resources specializing in Environmental Justice and Community Education at Cornell University. She is originally from Los Angeles, California, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Click here for a clip from her interview on Aljazeera America while she was working on relief for typhoon victims and survivors in the Philippines. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Susannah Gund

Susannah Gund, Adult Education Coordinator

Susannah joined the AAANY in July 2013 as the Adult Education Coordinator, having previously taught English, Arabic, and French in a variety of contexts. She has a Master's degree in Education and is a proud alumna of Swarthmore College where she studied Linguistics and Languages with Arabic and French. Susannah spent over two years living in Fez, Rabat, and Massa, Morocco teaching, working, studying Moroccan Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, and Tachelheit Berber, and researching multilingualism and mother tongues in Moroccan classrooms. She is passionate about supporting multilingual, multicultural individuals and communities, linguistic human rights, and education for social justice.

Somia Elrowmeim, Adult Education Instructor

Originally from Yemen, Somia El-Rowmeim moved to New York in 2007. She joined AAANY as Adult Education Instructor in April of 2013. Before that, she volunteered in the AAANY as citizenship tutor. She graduated from Sana'a University, Yemen in June 2006 with Bachelors of Education/Major in Physics-Mathematics. She also has Administrative Assistant Certificate and Accounting Program Certificate from Kingsborough Community College in 2012. She has Teacher Assistant Certification from New York State. She has Secretary and Computer Diploma from Space Town Center for Computer & Language, in Yemen at 2002. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Evelyn_Garcia

Evelyn Garcia, Community Outreach Coordinator

Evelyn Garcia is a 23 year old Mexican American from Sunset Park Brooklyn. She’s a committed organizer that cares deeply about youth and immigrant issues. She is a recent graduate from New York University where she studied Sociology and Latino Studies. Her commitment to service and the community brought her to AAANY through NYC Service as a NYC Corps member. She has extensive experience working with youth and immigrant communities. She worked with the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Brooklyn for 4 summers with a team of dedicated staff that made sure the Summer Youth Employment Program participants get all the guidance and support they need. She also interned and worked at the NYU Child Study Center with a research team working on breathing problems among minority youth in NYC public schools. She interned with Domestic Workers United working with a team of dedicated organizers who advocate and organize for domestic workers’ rights and fair legislation. She is also extremely invested in Raza Youth Collective, a community organized group that organizes workshops and events around cultural and political issues that affect the Latino community. She is very much excited to be working at AAANY and looks forward to working closely with the staff and community. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sabrina Zahir, Office Manager

Sabrina Zahir is a born and bred Brooklynite that is proud of her Moroccan roots. A recent graduate of Tufts University, Sabrina majored in International Relations with a concentration in the Middle East. During her four years at Tufts, she was an active member of the Tufts Arab Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. Out of her love for the Spanish language, she spent the Spring 2011 semester in Madrid, Spain where she took classes and volunteered to teach English to college students at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. After spending four years away in Somerville, MA Sabrina is ready to become involved in giving back to the diverse Arab-American community of Brooklyn, which was the first place her parents came to when they left Casablanca, Morocco to start a new life. Sabrina came to the AAANY first as a babysitter, and then as a Voter Empowerment Fellow. She is excited to begin working as a NYC Service Corps member at the AAANY. Sabrina is currently studying to take the LSAT as she hopes to pursue a law degree in the near future. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Francis C. Madi, DREAM Organizer

Francis C. Madi came to the Association as the DREAM Organizer after receiving Deferred Action earlier in 2013. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela to a Lebanese father and a Venezuelan mother. She is an actress, a writer, and an avid reader. She graduated Queens College with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Theatre-Drama, where she founded and organized a Dream Team to raise awareness about immigration reform. Some of her duties at the Association include assisting #DREAMers with their Deferred Action applications, organizing a Dream Team for AAANY, and bringing the flare of the theater to the organization. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Yasmin Nagi, NNAAC Youth Fellow

Yasmin Nagi is born in Brooklyn, raised in Yemen and is very proud of her Arab-American background. Yasmin attends the City College of New York and is majoring in International Studies, concentrating on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yasmin is an active member in CCNY's MSA chapter and SJP's chapter. Trying to maintain both her Arab and American identity, Yasmin decided to join the Arab American Association to stay in touch with both worlds. She came to the AAANY to fulfill her internship requirement for her major, but was soon hired as the NNAAC Youth Fellow. Yasmin is now working on projects within the association to empower youth. She is also facilitating the Association's casework.