Who We Are
Accelerating immigrant integration and economic advancement through education and training, employment, and entrepreneurship.
Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia.
We believe that a steady influx of new customers, workers, and entrepreneurs can reinvigorate Pennsylvania’s aging population, renew its neighborhoods, and re-energize our economy. By making Pennsylvania a magnet for immigrants, we will become a more vibrant, more creative, and more dynamic competitor in today’s global economy.
We work closely with government agencies, service providers, employers, business associations, trade unions, and economic development groups.
Meet Our Founder
A professional physical therapist from County Monaghan, Ireland, Anne O’Callaghan, founder of the Welcoming Center, came to the United States in 1970.
Anne aimed to build a career in Philadelphia, but she learned that because she was foreign trained, she could not take the Pennsylvania State Medical Examiners’ Physical Therapy licensing exam without which she could not practice in the State. It took three years for her to get her Pennsylvania Physical Therapy license at a time when Physical Therapists were very much needed in the State. Anne had a very satisfying career in community health and teaching physical therapy students at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2000 while volunteering for an immigrant resource center which primarily helped Irish-American immigrants, Anne encountered a woman from China, who spoke almost no English, but was seeking help finding an ESOL class for her son. Anne’s experience trying to find ESOL classes for this lady brought home to her how exponentially more difficult the integration experience is for immigrants with limited English-speaking abilities. Anne decided that she had to do something to create a centralized resource center for immigrants where they could easily access information about ESOL, jobs and establishing small businesses as they started their new lives in our region.
In 2003, Anne and her close network of friends and supporters opened the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.
This organization has carried out her vision for over a decade. To date, the Welcoming Center has served over 16,000 people from over 150 countries around the world, accelerating immigrant integration and economic advancement, just as Anne envisioned.
Meet Our Board
Anuj Gupta, Esq. – Chair
Reading Terminal Market
John Touey – Vice Chair
Salveson Stetson Group
David M. Albert, Esq. – Secretary of Board
Natalie Barndt– Treasurer
Daniel P. Bauder
Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
Consulate of Canada
Peter J. Gonzales, Esq. – President & CEO
Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
Jack Heuer, Ed.D.
University of Pennsylvania
John P. Hilferty, Jr.
Independence Blue Cross
Econsult Solutions, Inc.
Global Bioethics Initiative
Express Employment Services
Mary J. Mullany, Esq.
Ballard Spahr LLP
Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
J Nowak Strategy
Baaj Group, LLC
Meet Our Team
Click on each section to read more.
Bryce Bayer is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in TESOL at Temple University. She has taught ESL to immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia and to university students in Bogota, Colombia.
Ethan Bello is an ESL & ABE instructor at the Welcoming Center. He received his B.A. from the New School for Public Engagement, with a concentration on literature and creative writing.
Before coming to the Welcoming Center, Ethan lived in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised. He now lives in Philadelphia with his fiancé and their big, white cat. He loves to write fiction stories at night, and is an avid reader. He also loves to listen to music from all over the world.
Miranda Berger connects work-authorized candidates to employers. She is originally from the Netherlands, and studied Human Resource Management at the University of Amsterdam. Before moving to the United States in 2012, Miranda worked in the Netherlands as a labor market adviser and as a recruiter.
Don’t hesitate to contact Miranda directly, to talk about that overdue life-changing move.
She looks forward to hearing from you!
Towanda Bright joined the Welcoming Center in 2017 as our Data Compliance Manager. She has experience working with databases and systems, including CWDS, CIS, ETO, Client Tracker, and KRONOS. Towanda is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of Phoenix.
Vanessa Caracoza works closely with entrepreneurs and small business owners who wish to establish and expand their business. She also connects new and existing businesses to resources and provides technical assistance.
Vanessa has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Arizona State University and is bilingual (English-Spanish). She was born in Las Vegas, NV to immigrant parents from Mexico.
Her professional background focuses on community organizing and she is an entrepreneur, owner of a flooring store in Bucks County. As a small business owner, she understands firsthand, the challenges small businesses face; therefore, she prides in treating each business case as if it were her own.
You can get in touch with her directly by sending her an email!
Fabiola Castellanos is bilingual in English and Spanish. She was born in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico and immigrated to a small town in Texas where she lived until 2007, when she moved to Philadelphia. In 2008, she began working for an immigration law firm in Center City, where she developed a passion for immigration law and human rights.
Fabiola says she can relate to the Welcoming Center’s clients because she knows what it’s like to be new in a country that seems so foreign, to love it, and to call it home.
Samuel Chanzi initially joined the Welcoming Center as a volunteer computer instructor.
He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Science in Kenya before immigrating to the United States and later attained an Associate’s degree in IT/Web Development from Delaware County Community College and a Master’s in Information Systems Technologies from Wilmington University in Delaware. With 15 years’ experience working in the IT industry both in Kenya and U.S., and a strong believer in giving back to the community, he has for the last 5 years been an active member and volunteer IT Director of StartUpAfrica, a U.S. based non-profit.
Samuel feels privileged and excited about the opportunity to help immigrants and U.S.-born Welcoming Center clients attain their goals of leading productive and fulfilled lives.
He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two loving, energetic, and fun sons.
Nina Chen joined the Welcoming Center in 2013 after a lengthy corporate career as an employee benefits lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm Montgomery McCracken; a recruiter with an executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group; and a partner at Mercer, a global human resource consulting firm.
As a child of Chinese immigrants who realized success after coming to the U.S., Nina is excited to be a part of a vibrant organization dedicated to helping other immigrant families realize the American Dream.
Janice Darab oversees the general operations of the office and is also an assistant to the President and CEO. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she is a graduate of Ursinus College, and was a computer programmer and systems analyst before retiring from the workforce to raise her twin sons.
Janice is an active member of the Spina Bifida Association of the Delaware Valley where she served on the Board of Directors for over 20 years, including eight years as President.
Lina Duffy works on external communications at the Welcoming Center. She is particularly fascinated by the space where communications and technology meet. Before moving to the United States, Lina worked in marketing and PR in Singapore, where she is originally from. She is fluent in English and Bengali.
If you want to share your thoughts about the Welcoming Center website or social media, want to collaborate on a story, or have any other questions, get in touch!
John Findley is the Outreach Specialist for the Welcoming Center’s International Professionals Program. This puts him on the lookout for immigrants in the city who hold a professional degree from their own country and who hope to pursue a similar career in the United States. John is a Philadelphia native yet lived in North Africa for 10 years. In those years he worked as a teacher, business owner, consultant and consumer of all foods Moroccan. He speaks some Arabic, is married to Caroline and has 5 children. John also moonlights as director of an ESL program in Northeast Philadelphia.
Khadija Ghanem manages administration duties and resolves client challenges at the Welcoming Center. She joins the Welcoming Center with extensive years of high-level experience at organizations like at UNESCO, ALECSO, ISESCO, UNICEF, WFP, and FAO. Most recently in her professional career, she was the Yemen Ambassador to India. Khadija is fluent in English and Arabic.
Jennifer Ginsberg first joined the Welcoming Center while earning her master’s degree in nonprofit leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, Jenny carried out a Fellowship through which she received a high level of training and mentor-ship in creating meaningful and compelling solution-based journalism within the social sector. She received her social work degree from The Catholic University of America and has experience in direct-service, research, and program management in the U.S., South America, and Asia.
Jennifer is proud to be a part of the Welcoming Center’s development team.
Peter Gonzales is the President and CEO of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. Over the past 25 years, Peter has gained valuable experience providing many of the same services we provide at the Welcoming Center. After graduating from the University of Scranton, he was an ESL and U.S. Civics teacher in Poland and South Korea and served as an International Development Fellow at USAID. After returning to Philadelphia, he managed a community economic development program along a commercial corridor in North Philadelphia while attending law school at Temple University in the evenings. For 10 years, Peter worked as an attorney, first for City of Philadelphia and then in private practice as an immigration attorney prior to joining the Welcoming Center.
As a 2017 Eisenhower Fellow, Peter is exploring strategies to promote immigrant integration and entrepreneurship in Germany and South Korea.
Peter has completed the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program and currently serves on numerous boards including the Douty Foundation, The Merchants Fund, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Global Philadelphia Association, and Philadelphia Works, Inc.
Qadeer Gulzari provides training and one-to-one technical assistance for business owners and entrepreneurs. He walks them through what it takes to be successful in today’s business world.
Formerly, Qadeer worked as a Finance Development Manager for American University of Afghanistan and as a Business Analyst for US Department of Defense. He has more than 10 years of teaching experience. Qadeer is also an entrepreneur importing saffron from Afghanistan. He earned his MBA degree from Akron University in Ohio.
Elizabeth Gutierrez is responsible for managing program development for the International Professionals Program (IPP), which assists foreign-educated professionals integrate into the professional workforce in the U.S. She designs and manages curriculum content and training materials for the program, as well as assists with ongoing program evaluation.
Before joining The Welcoming Center, Elizabeth volunteered teaching ESL, the Business Entrepreneur class and tutoring. For the past 17 years, Elizabeth was a founding partner in an architecture and urban planning firm where she worked extensively in community development. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, a Master of Arts in Geography from Temple University, and a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages).
Mira Keldani is dedicated to helping immigrants succeed in the United States.
Mira worked as a case worker in Beirut for almost two years, where she used to counsel refugees in order to resettle them to the U.S.. Three years ago, Mira immigrated to the U.S. from Beirut, Lebanon. Since then, she has worked in development as well as in case management, providing services to vulnerable refugee families.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Saint Joseph University in Beirut and a dual Masters degree in Political Studies from Saint Joseph University and Paris I Sorbonne in France.
Mira speaks Arabic, French, and Spanish.
André Lackenbacher provides job development training, creates job opportunities for our candidates, and helps connect work-authorized candidates with employers.
André is a citizen of the world; he is bilingual (English-Spanish). André was raised in Quito, Ecuador (South America), where he obtained his B.A. in Business Administration with minor in Psychology and his M.B.A. in Human Resource Management and Development. With over 8 years of experience on people-oriented positions, André has worked in diverse areas that allowed him approach to people and work directly with them. He is also a passionate and creative entrepreneur.
André loves to bike, learn new things on YouTube (and the web!), watch good soccer games and think about new solutions for the daily challenges.
Don’t hesitate to contact André directly, to talk about that overdue life-changing move. He looks forward to hearing from you!
Halima Mazouzi joined the Welcoming Center in 2015 with over ten years’ experience as a professional bookkeeper. Originally from Morocco, Halima worked as a secretary for several large companies before coming to the United States. She is fluent in French, Arabic, Berber and English.
Herman Nyamunga provides technical assistance to entrepreneurs and business owners to successfully establish, stabilize, and expand their microenterprises.
He has an MBA from Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Kenyatta University, Kenya.
Manuel Portillo is a seasoned non-profit leader who comes to the Welcoming Center after a substantive career in non-profit program development and community organizing. Manuel is a 22-year Philadelphia resident who is originally from Guatemala.
Alison Priebe teaches ESL, ABE, and ServSafe classes. She has her M.S.Ed. in TESOL from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught English to students from all around the world. She focuses on designing engaging, learner-focused materials and curricula that best suit the needs of her students by giving them the tools they need to thrive and succeed in a new country.
Nicole Pumphrey has dedicated her career to fostering cultural understanding and promoting inclusion through education and workforce development. Nicole joined the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians as Director of Strategic Partnerships in 2014, where she leads the organization’s external engagement strategy, building collaborations and advocating for the valuable contributions of immigrants to the region’s social stability and economic prosperity.
Nicole earned her B.A. in French and Korean Studies and an M.S.Ed. in Intercultural Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. Her own experience studying abroad motivated her to spend ten years developing international programs to educate the next generation of leaders. Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Nicole supported global initiatives at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.
She currently serves as the President of the Pennsylvania Council for International Education, advocating for global competence in policy and practice throughout the Commonwealth and in 2016 she received the Rising Star Award from Drexel University’s Institute for Strategic Leadership.
Nicole is a lifelong Philadelphian, who has lived in France and Korea, but sees her deep roots in the region as a valuable asset, motivating her to invest in making her hometown a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, both newcomers and long-time residents.
Amelia Ramsaran is an ESL/Civics instructor at the Welcoming Center. She was born in Mississauga, Canada and moved to Delaware at an early age. She received her BA in Sociology at the University of Delaware, and her Master’s in Sociology at Temple University in 2016.
Amelia is very dedicated towards working with immigrants and promoting their integration into American society.
Rebecca Rathje joined the Welcoming Center in 2015. She earned her B.A. in Social Science from the University of Michigan and holds a Certificate in Fundraising from the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University’s School of Business. Rebecca has over 25 years’ experience in non-profit fundraising and management.
Eric Rosenfeld heads the International Professionals Program (IPP) supporting international professionals and businesses in Philadelphia. IPP focuses on helping professionals re-enter the field in which they worked in their own countries, and attracting and supporting foreign business in Philadelphia.
Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Eric practiced corporate law. He earned his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and obtained a BA in History from Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College.
Elbert Sampson is the Director of Education and Training for the Welcoming Center. He provides supervision to the instructional and case management staff and oversees compliance of contracts.
Elbert holds a degree in law and has a background in education management having served as the CEO of a Philadelphia charter school. Additionally, he was a Certified Financial Manager providing financial planning and consulting services to high-net-worth individuals, non-profit organizations and businesses. Elbert studied Chinese in the People’s Republic of China and while he practiced law he built a component of his law practice that entailed providing advisory services to businesses interested in operating in China.
Elbert was awarded a prestigious Arts, Inc. Fellowship in nonprofit management and was a visiting scholar in Asian Studies at Temple University.
He is active in many community activities and serves on the Board of Directors of several nonprofit organizations throughout the greater Philadelphia area.
Jennelle Seiden is an ESL Instructor with the Welcoming Center, teaching at Cardone Industries, Inc. in North Philadelphia.
She graduated from Arcadia University with a BA in International Studies. While at Arcadia, Jennelle volunteered with the Welcoming Center, where she tutored students preparing for their naturalization exam.
Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Jennelle served as a TEFL volunteer with the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso. She taught 7th and 8th grade English in her village’s public high school and was involved in girls’ empowerment.
Gretchen Spencer is an ESL Instructor with the Welcoming Center, teaching at Cardone Industries, Inc. in North Philadelphia.
She earned her M.S.Ed. in TESOL from Temple University and her B.A. in English from the University of Delaware. She has been teaching adult ESL at a variety of non-profit organizations in the Philadelphia area since 2014, and loves sharing her passion for studying language and culture with her students. She also hopes to continue participating in research/advocacy projects related to language access and women’s issues.
Judy Stavisky, MPH, M.ED joined the Welcoming Center as a Senior Advisor with a long career in non-profit management and philanthropy.
She served as the National Executive Director of Friends of the Children, a five state mentoring program that matches vulnerable children to paid mentors. Prior to assuming the helm at Friends, Judy served as a Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where she managed a portfolio of $100 million of human service investments that supported vulnerable populations. Judy has written a book with two nuns about the journey of the children of immigrants in a West Philly parochial school. She attended University of California and earned a pubic health degree from Yale Medical School.
Stephanie Sun is Project Manager at the Welcoming Center. She majored in Communication Management and International Relations, and has a passion for facilitating cross-cultural communication and international businesses development.
Originally from China, Stephanie speaks Mandarin, English and Korean, and was a tenured college lecturer, journalist and news announcer. And with working experience of Marketing, Public Relations and Human Resource Development in multinational enterprise, she is currently working closely with immigrant entrepreneurs who are launching or expanding their business.
Nora Telles graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Philosophy and Spanish Language, Literature, and Linguistics. While at Temple University, Nora worked with Temple’s project SHINE Program (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) where she led an ESL class for Spanish speaking immigrants. After graduating, Nora taught ESL with the South Philadelphia Literacy Partnership.
Joe Walsh started at The Welcoming Center in 2013 as a volunteer in what he thought was his retirement from medicine. He loved the mission here and is now on staff teaching adult basic and secondary education for those students seeking a high school equivalency diploma. He is a Pennsylvania certified science teacher.
The generosity of our individual donors, and corporate and foundation funders is what fuels the Welcoming Center’s mission. We’re grateful for their support and optimistic about what we can do together to build Pennsylvania’s economy by providing employment resources for immigrants.
Bank of America
Samuel S. Fels Fund
Independence Blue Cross Foundation
Patricia Kind Family Foundation
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Philadelphia Foundation
Ukrainian Community Foundation