Role: VP Family and Workforce Services | Organization: Oakridge Neighborhood Services
Almardi Abdalla works for Oakridge Neighborhood Services as Vice President for Family & Workforce Programs. He oversees variety of programs and services such as Adult Workforce Readiness/Development, Family Case Management, Citizenship, Financial Literacy, ELL, Driver’s Education, Food Access and other human services programs designed to assist immigrants, refugees and other hard to place clients in addressing the barriers required to secure and sustain employment paying a livable wage.
Role: Director of Scheduling and Advance, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack | Organization: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Lanon Baccam is the son of Inh and Bounmy Baccam, Taidam refugees from Laos who arrived to Iowa in 1980. Baccam was born in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and is a 1999 graduate of Mt. Pleasant Community High School and 2011 graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, IA.
Baccam is a military veteran and spent eight years in the U.S. Army and Iowa National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004-2005. During his time in the Army, Baccam held leadership roles as a unit movement officer and served as a combat engineer at a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
During the Obama Administration, Baccam served as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) at the United States Department of Agriculture and has returned to the USDA in the Biden Administration to once again serve as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s Director of Scheduling and Advance.
Baccam currently lives in Des Moines with his wife, Alissa Brammer, and their daughter, Freya.
Kenia Calderon Ceron
Role: VP/Bilingual Business Development Director | Organization: GreenState Credit Union
Kenia Calderon Ceron, VP/Bilingual Business Development at GreenState Credit Union. As a native of El Salvador, she been a tireless advocate for Latinos and immigrant communities. Her advocacy work has garnered substantial local and national media attention. She was named one of the “15 people to Watch in 2015” by the Des Moines Register, in 2016 she was named an Iowa International Center Passport to prosperity. Most recently, she was named 40 under 40 leader by the Business Record.
Role: Program Specialist | Organization: Evelyn K. Davis Center – DMACC
Ms Lo-liyong currently works as a program specialist at Evelyn K Davis Center, where she coordinates workforce development programs and assists businesses and nonprofits.
Originally from Sudan / South Sudan, Census has 10 years of consulting and project management experience. She has worked and lived amongst diverse refugee communities, coming from a country that has been in conflict since her birth. Census has been involved with peacekeeping negotiations in Ethiopia and was a coordinator for the Sudan – South Sudan Dialogue group, pushing for common interest between the two countries. She uses her voice to advocate for change in the narrative of refugees, with a focus on equity and inclusion. She is passionate about climate change mitigation and wildlife conservation efforts and served as a board member for the Confident Children out of Conflict nonprofit in South Sudan.
Census earned a degree in Environmental Management while residing in South Africa and a MPA from Drake University in Iowa. She is a member of Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Public Administration.
Role: Community Impact Coordinator | Organization: Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation
Anna Nalean serves as the Community Impact Coordinator at Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation managing overall health related grantmaking requests. Anna is an Iowa native and a graduate of Simpson College with a degree in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Drake University. Her interest in supporting refugee resettlement efforts started in college with a summer internship in Des Moines and during a semester abroad experience in Thailand where she traveled to the Thai/Burma border to serve internally displaced people. In 2019, she pursued her lifelong dream of traveling the world solo for 8 months to over 30 countries. Anna lives in Des Moines with her husband Bobby.
Role: Refugee Education Coordinator | Organization: Lutheran Services in Iowa
Vinh Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. Growing up in a family of ten brothers and sisters, Vinh developed a strong sense of collaboration for success and helping others at a young age. Soon after the Vietnam War came to an end on April 30, 1975, life in South Vietnam changed completely as the government tried to put socialism and communism into practice. In summer 1981, his parents decided to have him escape from Vietnam to seek freedom and opportunities for his future, he later were sent to a refugee camp in Thailand and was accepted by the United States to resettle in Des Moines, Iowa.
With no English language skills, he found many difficulties in adjusting to life in America beginning at the age of twenty-two; he struggled in communication in English and often relied on others to help in finding jobs, interpretation, etc. That is why he is very active in the language minority and refugee communities; he currently serves as the president of Vietnamese American Community in Iowa. Vinh also serves as a storyteller, speaker, and consultant for many topics related to Vietnam, Southeast Asia, refugee, and resettlement process, and second language acquisition issues.
Role: LGBTQ Liaison/Chief Equity Officer | Organization: City of Des Moines
Manisha Paudel joined City of Des Moines as its first Equity Coordinator in late 2017 and was appointed as its first Chief Equity Officer in 2020. She has over 12 years of global experience in human rights, cultural competency, local government, institutionalizing racial equity, and community engagement. She also serves as a Co-chair of Government Alliance on Race and Equity network. Prior to her role in Des Moines, she served the City of Tacoma (WA) as Senior Policy Analyst, City of Dubuque (IA) as Human Relations Specialist, and City of Davenport (IA) as Management and Accreditation Analyst. Manisha is a native of Nepal and received her B.A. in International Relations from Drake University and her M.S. in Public Service Management from DePaul University.
Role: HR Manager | Organization: Andersen Windows & Doors
Nina came to Des Moines, IA, in 1997 as a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has always been very passionate about serving the refugee and immigrant communities. She is currently the Human Resources Manager at Andersen Windows & Doors, Storm Door Division, where she manages the department’s operations, compliance, engagement, training, and development. Nina has extensive HR experience, primarily in the manufacturing sector, with expertise in talent acquisition, employee relations, employee recognition, compensation, and performance management. As someone who has witnessed first-hand the challenges that come with securing employment, she has worked on building internal and external partnerships, identifying ways to not only connect future and current employees with job opportunities, but also to ensure their successful integration into their team and community.