Meet Our Team

NADIA HASSAN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Nadia Hassan, MBA is known amongst her peers as a Social Strategist for young people.  A California girl and daughter of US Marine, Nadia is the Executive Director of Young Leaders Institute, a youth leadership platform and network connector that empowers youth toward social entrepreneurship and social innovation.  Nadia has an MBA from Bentley University, where she did her thesis in Islamic Finance and Sustainable Economics. In 2011, Nadia founded the Villa Park Peace Coalition (an interfaith peace coalition) to counteract the hate and anti-Muslim bigotry coming from the Tea Party in Orange County.  Nadia led The Coalition to a victory which resulted in the defeat of a Villa Park City Council member, who was dismissed from her position as Vice-Chairperson of the GOP for her bigoted rhetoric. Nadia’s political activism gained her media attention with numerous media outlets, such as C-SPAN, CNN, USA Today, Al-Jazeerah, Washington Post- and others- as well as board and committee appointees with numerous interfaith organizations.  Nadia is currently a media contributor and has appeared on TV/radio shows such as The Heat, Open Lens, Sputnik Radio, and U.S. Arab Radio. As a peace and justice advocate, Nadia uses her national platform to fervently speak out against systemic racism and the religious intolerance that is currently plaguing our communal and political spheres. Nadia serves on the Prince George’s County Muslim Council and is a National Committee Board Member to the Muslim Caucus of America.

Kassandra Goncalves

COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA FELLOW

Kassandra is a first-generation Cape Verdean college graduate who is passionate about uplifting the voices for the next generation of leaders through instructed mentorship.  While in school, Kassandra accepted a 6-month social media internship with the Young Leaders Institute.  Kassandra studied Political Science and Communications at Bridgewater State University.  Upon graduating, Kassandra landed a job at the Social Innovation Forum as their Communications & Events coordinator.  In August 2019, Kassandra joined YLI's Youth Advisory Council as their communications and media fellow.  She looks forward to this year of collaborating with other young leaders in an effort to bridge the leadership gap in the DMV area.

Salma Nanai

SOCIAL MEDIA FELLOW

Born Maryam, but goes by the name of Salma!  Salma is currently finishing up her last year of high school as a homeschool student.  She is driven to learn new things and has a passion for social media projects. In August 2019, Salma joined the Young Leaders Institute as Youth Ambassador and Social Media Fellow.

Ashley Natt

RESEARCH FELLOW

Born in Portland, OR and raised in Aurora, CO, Ashley received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver and an A.S. in Medical Assisting from Herzing University in Kenner, LA.  Ashley recently graduated from  North Carolina Central University with a Masters in Public Administration.  I work as a Transition 4 Success Coach where I teach life and job skills to high school students with disabilities.  Previously, Ashley worked with adjudicated youth at a nonprofit in New Orleans, LA, and it was here where her passion to empower marginalized youth grew.  Ashley joined the Young Leaders Institute in August 2019 and is serving on the Youth Advisory Council as a research fellow.

SOPHIE BOUWSMA

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PROGRAM FELLOW

Sophie is a musician and peacebuilder focused on addressing the roots of structural and cultural violence in the United States. She is passionate about cultivating genuine relationships, facilitating dialogue on difficult topics and shaping transformative learning environments. Sophie has collaborated with CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Standing Rock Michigan Tent, Cosecha GR, Kauffman Interfaith Institute and the Poor People’s Campaign. She is completing her MA in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training and has studied peacebuilding with the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) Peacebuilding Program, Vahidin Omanovic (Center for Peacebuilding, Bosnia), Dishani Jayaweera (Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation, Sri Lanka), Tatsushi Arai (United Nations Peace Envoy) and Musicians without Borders. She is currently conducting research on evangelical approaches to peace and conflict studies.

PRIYANKA NIGHOT

INTERN

Priyanka is from Mumbai, India where she studied Commerce for four semesters at the Mumbai University, India. She is currently studying Business Management and Administration at Northern Virginia Community College. Priyanka worked for an NGO as an Intern of Alumni Engagement Vertical, and she has been part of the Apni Shala’s Youth Project program which is based on the social emotional learnings in her country. Therefore, she wishes to establish her own non-profit organization that will help youth in education in the future because she loves to organize events and interact with people.

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