who we are

our board of directors

Matthew Norman, Board Treasurer

Matthew is Vice President and Treasury Relationship Manager with Union Bank Commercial Treasury Services. His group focuses on the cash management needs of middle market and corporate clients based in the Pacific Northwest. Matthew manages a portfolio of deposit and treasury management relationships. Matthew graduated from Chapman University in Orange, California. He earned a B.A. in political science with an emphasis in international relations. He also volunteers regularly with local organizations that support higher education, social justice, and fight youth homelessness.

Chelsea Hicks, Board Secretary

Chelsea is a staff attorney with Northwest Justice Project’s Foreclosure Consequences Advocacy Team. She graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 2008. While pursuing her law degree, Chelsea interned with non-profit organizations serving low-income clients at Seattle Community Law Center and Alaska’s Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Additionally, Chelsea volunteered weekly as a drop-in center volunteer at Lambert House, King County’s GLBTQ teen center. After graduating, Chelsea worked for over three years at Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), a non-profit legal aid organization, where she represented low-income clients in a variety of areas including home foreclosure defense, public benefits, landlord/tenant, consumer protection, property, and family law. In addition to her work with ALSC, Chelsea worked as a domestic violence advocate at the Alaska Family Services domestic violence shelter in Palmer, Alaska. Chelsea conducted intakes with domestic violence victims, answered crisis calls, and oversaw the daily operations of the shelter.

Cina Littlebird

Cina (Laguna Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo) was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM. After graduating from Stanford University with a J.D./M.A. Education, she moved to Seattle to join Northwest Justice Project’s Native American Unit as an attorney supporting Native American students and their families across the state. Prior to pursuing her graduate degrees, Cina interned with a New Mexico non-partisan think tank, worked as a youth corps leader with an environmental non-profit, taught English in Thailand, and danced professionally with the all-indigenous contemporary company, Dancing Earth. She is passionate about breaking cycles of inequity through making the invisible visible and still tries to incorporate dance into her professional life whenever possible.

Ganita Musa

Ganita was born and raised in Ethiopia and currently works as the Student Services Manager at Year Up Puget Sound, a nonprofit organization serving young adults ages 18-24. She graduated from University of Washington Tacoma in 2015 with Bachelors in Social Welfare and Minor in Global Engagement and in 2016 with Masters of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Washington. She completed her MSW practicum/internship at Denny International Middle school through a school-based community organization, providing mental health counseling and care coordination for students not doing well behaviorally and academically. Ganita interned with Downtown Emergency Service Center with people experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, and suffering from substance use disorders. After graduation, Ganita worked as a child and family therapist for Southwest Youth and Family Services where she visited elementary, middle, and high school students who were having a difficult time in traditional school settings. She volunteers with United Way King County to assist low-income people with free tax preparation and participates in Day of Service at Seattle Center to provide health and dental access for low-income people. In her roles, Ganita has learned that social, educational, and economic injustice is bigger that she initially thought. Coming to United States as a refugee and not knowing the language or how to navigate the education system was a challenge. Because of Seattle Education Access and other nonprofit organizations dedicated to assisting those who are unprivileged, Ganita has achieved her dream of earning higher education degrees. Now, she feels, it is her turn to give back by working with SEA and at Year Up. When not working or volunteering, she loves cooking and spending time with my family.

Mohammad Jama

Mohammad was born in Fairfax, VA and spent his formative years in Ann Arbor, MI before attending the University of Michigan for both undergraduate and graduate engineering studies. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering in 2016 and earned a Master's degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering the following year. Mohammad graduated with the highest honors, summa cum laude, from the Engineering Global Leadership Honors Program at Michigan. After completing school, Mohammad moved to Seattle to begin as an Optics Strategic Sourcing Manager within Devices (Surface and HoloLens) at Microsoft. A self-proclaimed learn-it-all, Mohammad is keen on education, engineering & technology, business models, podcasting, and ultimate frisbee.

Dr. Thomas Staiger

Thomas is the Medical Director of the University of Washington Medical Center and a general internist at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is active in the Society of General Internal Medicine and chairs the society’s Clinical Practice Committee. His academic interests include the evaluation of low back pain, physician-patient communication, and educating physicians regarding leadership and quality improvement. He is married, has three children, and enjoys sailing, skiing, hiking, and music. He currently serves as Audience Engagement Lead.


Anthon Smith, Executive Director

Anthon has been serving the SEA community since 2006 and has been working with low-income communities for nearly 20 years, including seven years internationally. Anthon’s passion is inspired by personal experiences as a queer youth/young adult, of homelessness, and other family experiences stemming from generational poverty and trauma. A first generation college student, Anthon graduated with bachelor's degrees in sociology and philosophy from the University of Malta, and attended Seattle University for graduate studies in non-profit leadership. In addition to working at SEA, Anthon is active in the community as an artist and artist manager.

Katy Childers, Development Director

Katy directs SEA’s fundraising, communications and marketing efforts. With over 10 years of non-profit program and development experience, she has worked with Jubilee Women’s Center, Conservation International, Global Partnerships and the Bainbridge-Ometepe Sister Islands Association. She holds a master's in public administration specializing in non-profit management from the University of Washington. Outside of work, Katy enjoys gardening, circus arts, and running.

Jeff Corey, Program Director

Jeff has been working for non-profit organizations in Seattle for over 10 years. Prior to SEA, Jeff worked with the Street Outreach Service’s Syringe Exchange program and the Capitol Hill Homeless Youth Case Management Program. Jeff is a co-founder of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA), which operates the University District Syringe Exchange. He holds a master's in public administration from the University of Washington. In addition to his work, Jeff enjoys soccer, working with PHRA, and spending time with his amazing partner, VeraEve.

Danika Martinez, Program Director

Danika works with partner sites, such as Career Link, South Seattle College, Highline College and Big Picture High School. Danika received her MSW from the University of Washington in Community-Centered Integrative Practice and takes interest in anti-oppressive practice, dialogic social justice models, youth empowerment and digital storytelling. She has worked with youth and young adults of all ages over the last several years from her work in different Seattle-based organizations. In her spare time, Danika loves spending time with her family in Eastern Washington and hanging out with her dog Maya.

Angela Pierce, Program Manager & Education Advocate - Auburn

Angela is the Education Advocate serving in Kent and Auburn. Angela is an alumna of Pacific Lutheran University with a B.A. in social work. She grew up in Tacoma, Washington, as a low-income student herself where she received assistance from various organizations and mentors that helped her not only get into college but be able to afford college. She has been inspired from her own experience to assist other students in gaining access to higher education. Before she was an Education Advocate, Angela was an AmeriCorps tutor at SEA assisting students in preparing for their GED and Compass tests. Aside from SEA, Angela is an active community organizer with the Filipino-American organization Anakbayan Seattle. She enjoys hiking, playing with her puppies, and traveling.

Ashley Alday, Education Advocate - South & Central Seattle

Ashley is an alumna of the University of Washington where she received her Masters in Social Work focusing on Administration and Policy. As a low-income student herself, Ashley received support from her many mentors throughout her journey in education. These individuals worked to inspire Ashley in making her dreams come true; being the first person in her family to graduate from college. Ashley enjoys traveling, exploring, hanging out with her loved ones, Netflix, and eating!

Danait D. Tefere, Educatino Advocate - East King County

Danait is African by heritage and Washingtonian by locality. She understands herself as a world citizen with roots that interconnect in many ways. Danait has a deep passion to create a sustainable environment both domestically and around the world. She believes quality education to be the only solution to solve the social problems the world faces today. Her graduate degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution with a focus on non-violent methods gave her the opportunity to work, do field research, and teach workshops with organizations that work with local communities in Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Indonesia, Colombia and Ethiopia. She is an advocate for needs based projects at the grass root level and in her off time she tries to understand quantum mechanics.

Dulce Sigüenza, Development Manager

Dulce focuses on coordinating and managing SEA’s fundraising events and community outreach opportunities. Prior to SEA, Dulce worked with middle, high, and college students for five years. Most recently, she worked at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Dulce is an immigrant herself and is passionate about advocating for human rights. She is a University of Washington and SEA alumna and served on SEA’s Student Advisory Board and later on SEA’s Board of Directors. During her spare time, Dulce enjoys exercising, watching movies, shopping, and spending time with her loved ones.

Jen Apostolos, Program Manager & Education Advocate - Federal Way

As a native Tacoman, she has experience working with GED students and developing educational programming and partnerships at the REACH Center. She studied History and Latin American Studies at the University of Puget Sound and is passionate about educational equity. Aside from her work, she enjoys cooking, biking, and spending time with her two nieces.

Jessica Velasquez, Education Advocate - Central Seattle

Jessica Velasquez is a first-generation college student from Sunnyside, Washington. Jessica earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington Bothell where she double majored in Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior and American and Ethnic Studies with a double minor in Education and Society and Diversity Studies. After graduating, Jessica continued her education by pursuing a Master's Degree in the Student Development Administration program at Seattle University. Jessica's passion for social justice, equity, and inclusion lead her to become an Education Advocate serving Central Seattle.

Larissa Reza Garcia, Education Advocate - Southwest Seattle

Larissa is from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico and arrived to the United States when she was three years old. Larissa has a passion for decolonizing education through the power of young people and has committed to push forth with immigration rights, as well helping other undocumented students and first gen-students obtain the resources necessary to attend higher education. She graduated from Chief Sealth International High School, and went to earn her Bachelors of Arts from the University of Washington, Seattle, where she majored in Social Welfare and minored in Diversity.

Neena Viel, Community Engagement Director

Neena has over five years of experience in development, communications and volunteer management. Prior to joining the SEA team, Neena held positions at College Access Now, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Neena is a first-generation college graduate and holds a masters in public service from the University Of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Neena loves reading and managing her book club, and scaring herself with spooky movies.

Nicollette Roe, Education Advocate - Renton

Nicollette is the Education Advocate for the Renton area and graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Integrated Social Science studying people and communities globally. Nicollette has always had a passion for education working with early learners and their families all the way to higher ed. Coming from a low-income family, being a first generation college student, single mother and learning to self-advocate for herself throughout her college career she is dedicated to providing support for students to try and lessen the barriers in place in pursuing a post-secondary degree. Nicollette values equal opportunity and access for all students to receive a quality education and believes education is a human right. She enjoys eating all kinds of different foods, travel, and spending time with her daughter Coco!

Penny Lipsou, Education Advocate - North Seattle

Penny has over seven years of experience working with youth and families. A native Seattleite who grew up low-income and with a refugee parent, Penny believes in the transformative power of education. She is a first-generation college student who earned two degrees from the University of Washington, receiving a BS in Psychology with a minor in Comparative History of Ideas, as well as a Masters of Social Work with a focus on Policy and Administration. Penny enjoys going on adventures with her dog, Ava, spending time with her friends, reading and creative writing.

Taylor Wells, Education Advocate - SeaTac & Georgetown

As someone who’s postsecondary education was transformed by her mentors and peers, Taylor knows firsthand just how influential having a support system while getting an education can be. She studied Politics and American Ethnic Studies at Willamette University and is passionate about working with communities of color and marginalized communities. In her free time, Taylor likes to spend time with friends, reading, baking, and even occasionally attempts to teach herself to play the piano.

Zoë Withered, Education Advocate - Shoreline

Zoë is the Education Advocate for the Shoreline area, and is passionate about socioeconomic equity and empowering young people to pursue their education goals. Zoë received her B.A. from Macalester College in Cultural Anthropology, with a minor in Sociology. Prior to SEA, she worked as a career counselor and resource coordinator for low-income families in both Minnesota and Seattle, and spent time living and working in northern Spain. In her free time, Zoë enjoys hiking, traveling, spending time with friends, and binge-watching Netflix!