Who We Are
The Welcoming Center promotes inclusive economic growth through immigrant integration.
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 17,000 people from over 150 countries around the world, promoting inclusive economic growth through immigrant integration, just as Anne envisioned.
Meet Our Board
Anuj Gupta, Esq. – Chair
Reading Terminal Market
John Touey – Vice Chair
Salveson Stetson Group
Kristy Leong – Secretary of the Board
Natalie Barndt – Treasurer
Daniel P. Bauder
Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
Campbell Soup Company
Peter J. Gonzales, Esq. – President & CEO
Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
Jack Heuer, Ed.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Carlton L. Johnson, Esq.
Archer & Grenier P.C.
Global Bioethics Initiative
Ferne F. Kuhn, M.Ed.
Kuhn Consulting Group
Express Employment Services
Patrick M. Mahanger
University of Pennsylvania
Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians
William A. Stock, Esq.
Klasko Immigration Law
Edward D. Vallejo
Meet Our Team
Click on each section to read more.
Bryce W. Bayer is the Welcoming Center’s Director of Education and Training.
From 2014-2015, Bryce worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at La Universidad Libre in Bogotá, Colombia. She became very interested in the international industry of English as a foreign language, and began to question the integrity of “voluntourism” and the detrimental effects of untrained English teachers on the quality of English language education both in the U.S. and abroad.
After her time in Colombia, Bryce knew that she wanted to hone her teaching practice and become an advocate for adult learners. While completing her M.S.Ed in TESOL at Temple University, Bryce worked as an ESL instructor with recently resettled refugees at local non-profits and also consulted with schools and community organizations to develop ESL programming for immigrant parents. She remains committed to developing programming that will help learners to succeed in their professional and personal lives, and ultimately foster a lifelong love of learning.
Bryce is an avid reader, occasional poet, and frequent traveler.
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. Miranda is on the board of the North East Chamber of Commerce.
Don’t hesitate to contact Miranda directly, to talk about that overdue life-changing move.
She looks forward to hearing from you!
Andrea Boozer oversees the general operations of the office and is also an assistant to the President and CEO.
Inez Bruce is the Student Support Coordinator at the Welcoming Center.
Blandine Chantepie-Kari is Director of Global Startup Accelerator (GSA), an EDA funded initiative. With the GSA program, the Welcoming Center, in partnership with the University City Science Center, is engaging local STEM startups to plan their international development by leveraging local successful immigrant professionals and international communities.
Blandine is an International Strategist, specialized in Foreign Direct Investment attraction programs and support services. She also advises companies in a range of industries on business development in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and beyond.
She received a Master’s Degree in Economics, majoring in International Management, from the IESEG, International School of Business and Management of Lille, France. She researched and completed her Master’s thesis as a grad student in the Border Studies Department of the University of Texas at El Paso.
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.
Monika Clarke started out as a volunteer with refugee populations in Trenton, New Jersey before deciding to go abroad and get certified in Bangkok, Thailand. She then proceeded to teach English to CEOs, directors, and employees in a one-on-one setting in Warsaw, Poland along with group classes at various language schools. Upon returning home, Monika worked for Intensive English Programs instructing mostly Middle-Eastern and Asian students. She decided to pursue a graduate degree in the field because she enjoyed her work. Since then, she has taught for English language programs at local community colleges and universities. She also works online. Monika enjoys getting to know her students individually over the course of each session.
Jill Jacobs Cohen is a longtime teacher, having taught in both K-12 and adult education settings. Most recently, Jill taught ESL to immigrants at the Upper Darby Community Outreach Corporation, as well as a graduate course for educators at Rosemont College on working effectively with English language learners.
Jill is passionate about creating welcoming and inclusive classrooms that value and support interaction across lines of culture, ethnicity, language and economic background. She provides anti-bias teacher training through the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference program to support this goal.
Jill holds a bachelors degree in English from Penn State University, teaching certification from Chapman University, and a doctorate in education and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jill is thrilled to be working at the Welcoming Center, helping immigrants to improve their English language, cultural understanding, and vocational skills to achieve self-sufficiency and career advancement.
Rochelle T. Cooks is Director of Employer Engagement at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. She oversees a project bridging the gap between employers and skilled international professionals.
She brings 5 years of experience in workforce development with persons of all ages and skill levels. She discovered this field after participating in a community service spring break trip to Detroit, MI with the UMass Boston Beacon Voyages for Service program. There, Rochelle learned what poverty looks like in the US and how housing demolition and restoration and urban farming could revitalize a community. Since then, Rochelle has recommitted her career to serving individuals in low-paying jobs to empower them to find and retain family-sustaining careers. Rochelle believes education and employment are keys to ending the cycle of poverty and the community is obligated to provide access to these opportunities.
Rochelle received her Bachelor of Art in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a proud Beacon alumna and serves on the External Board of Advisors for Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. As a lifelong learner, Rochelle is currently completing her Master of Education degree in Adult and Organizational Development at Temple University.
Lina Duffy is Director of Communications at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. She is responsible for developing communications strategies that advance the Welcoming Center’s efforts to make a broad impact across its diverse audiences through web, social media, and email marketing, as well as media relations and publications.
After spending nearly a decade working in public relations and marketing across government, private, and nonprofit sectors, Lina knows how to drive successful, persuasive campaigns rooted in strong brand stories. Having moved to Philadelphia from her native Singapore in 2014, she is able to look at the Welcoming Center’s communications through the lens of an immigrant. Lina holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management with an emphasis in communications from Singapore Management University.
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!
As the Welcoming Center’s grant writer, Katie Dumas works to persuasively communicate the Welcoming Center’s mission and programs to potential funders. Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Katie spent seven years writing grants and working on grant-funded projects for non-profits and institutions of higher education, most recently as the Director of Sponsored Research at Immaculata University. She earned a B.A. from Gettysburg College in Management and Spanish and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Delaware.
Ben Goebel is one of the Program Managers of the International Professionals Program. In that capacity, Ben helps make sure that skilled immigrants find the jobs they want in this new country. Ben is a French immigrant living in the United States since 2015 and has lived in Canada, China, and Poland. These international experiences made him go through a lot of barriers that immigrants are facing here. Ben is also heavily involved with the immigrant community of Philadelphia outside of work and graduated from the Immigrant Leadership Institute (ILI) offered by the Welcoming Center. He is part of a group of graduates from the ILI, called I Belong, organizing events all over the city. Ben believes that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and is deeply determined to bring more conversations to feel personally attached to every members of our communities.
Ben lives in Philadelphia with his wife. He loves reading about American history and finding new ways to get involved in his community.
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 explored 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.
Lauren N. Horner is the Program Manager at the Welcoming Center, where she leads community economic development initiatives helping entrepreneurs to establish, stabilize and grow their businesses. She is passionate about supporting local businesses, empowering entrepreneurs and revitalizing neighborhoods and communities. Lauren holds a Master’s in International Business and Development in Francophone West Africa and a Bachelor’s in Criminology with minors in Sociology and French & Francophone Studies.
Her own experiences living, working and studying abroad in the international development sector in Senegal, Cuba and France have given her the motivation to support and strengthen communities through strategic business development projects. Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Lauren worked within the international commerce sector facilitating trade of imports of fine hardwoods to the US and exports out of Senegal through the Senegalese Agency for the Promotion of Exportations. She has taught a discovery-based learning curriculum on the Criminal Justice System in Eastern Senior High School through the Washington D.C. Social Justice Fellowship. As a former intern of the Welcoming Center, Lauren has experience in surveying commercial corridors along with mapping and market research to discover potential business opportunities for immigrants and minorities.
Lauren speaks French and Wolof. She is insightful and passionate about the world around her.
Elizabeth Jones oversees all aspects of program development including conceptualization, design, implementation, and evaluation. She works with program directors to assess need and organizational capacity to deliver program outcomes which uphold the mission and support the relationships of all stakeholders who contribute to shaping the experience of Welcoming Center participants.
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).
Shantara Kennedy is Administrative Support Specialist at the Welcoming Center.
Jan Kubik works on career coaching and workforce development with immigrants to the United States as part of the International Professionals Program. Having spent his previous 3 years in employer relations and business development with several other non-profits in the Philadelphia area, he is eager use his skills and experiences to help immigrant participants find success in the US.
Jan holds a Master’s in International Human Right Law and Conflict Resolution from the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy & International Relations, and a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Rutgers University.
Nicole Marcote is a Philadelphia native who moved to Spain as a small child, spending most of her youth in the Basque Country. She returned to the U.S. to complete her last year of High School in California, with the intent of returning back to Spain, but after a semester at Santa Monica Community College she knew she would miss the multicultural aspect the U.S. offers and decided to stay, later completing her university degree in English Literature at UCSC.
She arrived to Philadelphia, via NYC where she worked as a translator and web producer. She owned and operated a food business on Girard Avenue for seven years, and some of her entrepreneurial passions include being on the lookout for new opportunities, visual merchandising and networking.
She recently worked at the School District of Philadelphia as a Language Access Coordinator where she supported multilingual families in navigating a new education system and providing resources.
She lives in South Kensington with her husband and two young children.
Mariam Nek is the Director of Workforce Development, overseeing workforce development programming at the Welcoming Center.
Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Mariam spent 6-7 years building a workforce development program that provided innovative and person-centered solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC. She served on the board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of DC and currently spends her time volunteering with faith-based organizations that serve communities in need.
Mariam received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Stanford University, where she first developed her passion for nonprofit workforce development. She is excited to be working with a passionate, mission-driven organization that helps immigrants integrate and realize their goals.
Mariam lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two cats. She enjoys volunteering, writing calligraphy, and baking and eating desserts.
Manuel Portillo started in Welcoming Center in 2014 as Director of the Immigrant Professionals Program to help unemployed and underemployed individuals to develop the skills necessary to access professional employment. He is currently the Director of Community Engagement working to develop participatory strategies to build trust and long-term relationships with participants and immigrant communities.
He is a seasoned non-profit leader who comes to the Welcoming Center after a substantive career in non-profit program development. Manuel is a 25-year Philadelphia resident who is originally from Guatemala and is well-traveled and experienced working with people of diverse cultural and language backgrounds. He is a long-time professional organizer working to address local issues while building immigrant social and economic inclusion.
He worked on developing Welcoming Center’s Participant Advisory Council and a consultative structure to strengthen listening inside the organizations and sound collective decision making. He is currently leading the design and implementation of the Immigrant Leadership Institute, a program offered by Welcoming Center where he works on strategic civic participation, innovative approaches to civic engagement, and building inclusive partnerships and policies.
He is currently a member of the Working Families Partnership, a project of AFL-CIO in Philadelphia.
Nicole Pumphrey has dedicated her career to fostering cultural understanding and promoting inclusion through education and workforce development. She joined the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians as Director of Strategic Partnerships in 2014 and currently serves as the Deputy Director, 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. Prior to joining the Welcoming Center, Nicole supported global initiatives at Temple University’s Fox School of Business at and at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on creative funding strategies to expand opportunities for first-generation and underrepresented students to travel abroad.
She currently serves on the board of the Women’s Opportunity Resource Center, a CFDI promoting economic self-sufficiency for women and their families through entrepreneurship and the Executive Leadership Team of the City Philadelphia’s Workforce Professionals Alliance. She has served as the President of the Pennsylvania Council for International Education, advocating for global competence in policy and practice throughout the Commonwealth, as a member of the PA Department of Education’s International Education Advisory Council, on Mayor Jim Kenney’s Transition Team for Immigrant Affairs, and in 2016 she received the Rising Star Award from Drexel University’s Institute for Strategic Leadership as a Fellow in the Leading for Change program.
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.
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.
Rob Sheppard works with students in the FOCUS program to concurrently develop their English, digital literacy, and employability skills. He will also be helping to develop out the new Contextualized ESL programs.
Rob is passionate about working with English learners and serving the immigrant community. He has taught learners of various ages and backgrounds in Philadelphia, Boston, Seoul, and Taipei. Before moving to Philadelphia, he served as senior director of adult education at an immigrant-serving multi-service center in Quincy, Massachusetts. He recently spent 18 months traveling in Asia, working from a laptop and building his online English school.
He has blogged a lot and published a bit about English language teaching, curriculum design, program development, and activism in the field. He is currently writing a 6-level intermediate ESL textbook series called Patterns.
With an MA in TESOL from The New School and a BA in English Literature from Stonehill College, he is an active member of The Open Door Collective, outgoing chair of the Adult Ed Interest Section at TESOL International, and a member of the board at The Literacy Council of Norristown.
Rob loves to hike, read, and cook!
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.
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.
100 Women Philadelphia
Bank of America
City of Philadelphia, Commerce Department
Delaware County Office of Employment and Training
Fairmount Park Conservancy
Kellogg Foundation – Build from Within Alliance
Patricia Kind Family Foundation
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Pennsylvania Department of Education
The Philadelphia Foundation
Philadelphia Works, Inc.
Samuel S. Fels Fund
TD Charitable Foundation
Wells Fargo Foundation