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Meet the Team

Our Board

Board Member

Laura R. García-Ramírez

Laura R. García-Ramírez is a community organizer and educator with a focus on housing, labor and immigration. Her most recent work as the policy lead with the Chicago Healthy Homes Coalition, a group of interdisciplinary advocates fighting for a citywide ordinance to address conditions in the home known to be detrimental to health and safety, led to the bill’s introduction in December 2022. Prior to her work in Chicago, Laura worked in Oaxaca and outside of Mexico City, organizing rural farmers and reporting on illegal land contracts and seizures.
President

Lekisha Gunn

Lekisha Gunn is the Impact Manager for Girls on the Run Chicago, a national non-profit organization that focuses on social emotional learning and fitness for girls from grades 3 to 8. She previously worked in the Illinois Supreme Court promoting legal access to self-represented litigants after the 2020 racial uprising. She also worked at the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in both Mexico and Austria under the Obama Administration. She is very active in the Chicago community and serves on both the Board of Directors for the Junior League of Chicago and Borderless Magazine. Lekisha holds a Master of Public Policy from Duke University and B.S. in Business Administration at the University of Alabama. In her free time, she likes running, reading and playing with her dog, Pep.
Secretary

Maria Woltjen

Maria is the founder of the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights, a national organization that advocates for the rights and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children. Over the last two decades, she focused on reforming the immigration system—in which children are treated as adults—into a justice system that recognizes children as children, centered on the rights of the child. Throughout her career, Maria concentrated on children’s rights, at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the ChildLaw Center at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, and at the University of Chicago Law School. In 2017, she received the Humanitarian Award from UNICEF, and in 2018, Maria was named a "Chicagoan of the Year" by Chicago Magazine.
Board Member

Sarita Muley

Sarita is a marketing professional specializing in go-to market strategies for new product launches and digital marketing campaigns. She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. She is thrilled to be on the board of Borderless Magazine. She is a firm believer in the power of personal stories in influencing change and broadening people’s viewpoint. During her free time, Sarita enjoys reading, writing, and cooking new recipes.
Shapelle Pisano
Treasurer

Shapelle Pisano

Shapelle Pisano is an experienced professional with a background in accounting, auditing, corporate finance, governance, and internal controls. She holds a Masters of Science in Accountancy from the University of Notre Dame and a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Kentucky State University. Shapelle is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in Illinois and currently leads the accounting function as Corporate Controller of the beauty-brand, Glossier, Inc.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Shapelle currently resides in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and is a member of professional organizations including National Association of Black Accountants, DuPage County NAACP and currently serves as an officer in the Chicago Chapter of the KSU National Alumni Association. In her personal time, she enjoys cooking, organizing, and traveling with her husband and two boys.

Our Staff

Community Engagement Reporter

Diane Bou Khalil

Diane grew up in Brummana, Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic.

Before joining Borderless Magazine as an engagement reporter, Diane interned at the magazine and worked at the World Relief refugee agency.

She studied sociology at Northeastern Illinois University and will graduate with a Master’s in international studies from DePaul University in 2022.

Medill Reporting Fellow

Katrina Pham

Katrina is a multimedia journalist whose focus is on race and social justice reporting. Most recently, she's worked for The Yappie as a staff writer and newsletter contributor. There, she reported on solutions for inaccessible mental health care for Southeast Asian American refugees among other topics relating to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Before Borderless, she interned for ABC 7 Chicago's Race & Culture News team, connecting with community organizations in Chicago to pitch stories for the newsroom.

Katrina was born in Chicago, where both her parents settled after arriving in the United States as refugees from Vietnam following the end of the war. These experiences inform Katrina's work, and she cares deeply about social justice issues.

Editorial Director

Mauricio Peña

Mauricio is an award-winning journalist. He began his career as a crime and breaking news reporter at DNAinfo Chicago. He was a founding member and Southwest Side reporter for Block Club Chicago. Mauricio also worked as an investigative reporter covering immigration at the Desert Sun for the USA Today Network, an education reporter at Chalkbeat Chicago, and an associate digital editor at Chicago magazine.
Cofounder & Associate Director

Michelle Kanaar

Michelle is an award-winning journalist with a background in documentary photojournalism focusing on immigration, labor, and the environment. She is the proud daughter of immigrants from Colombia and the Netherlands. She grew up speaking Spanish and English and studied Arabic and Middle Eastern studies for her Bachelor’s. Michelle began her career at the Miami Herald and her work has been featured in publications such as The Guardian, The Atlantic, ProPublica and The Wall Street Journal. She is also a cofounder of the Prism Photo Workshop, whose mission is to provide resources and community for young photographers of diverse backgrounds.
Cofounder & Executive Director

Nissa Rhee

Nissa is a Peabody-award nominated journalist whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and Chicago magazine, among others.

In her 15-year career, she has covered global issues as a producer at Chicago Public Radio, served as a foreign correspondent in South Korea and Vietnam, and reported on police abuse and gun violence in Chicago.

In 2019, she received the Chicago Headline Club award for best online feature story. Previously, she served as a reporting fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a juvenile justice reporting fellow at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Queensland.

Operations Associate

Sarah Luyengi

Sarah grew up in the neighborhood of Little Italy. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her M.S. in International Public Service at DePaul University. She is a Board Member of Sarah's Circle and the Stories Matter Foundation. She has also written for Common Ground Review, Third Coast Review, and South Side Weekly. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spoiling her cats and buying an excessive amount of plants.

Our Contributors

Contributing Reporter

Chelsea Verstegen

Chelsea moved from Texas to Chicago in 2017. She studied journalism in college. She appreciates how journalism can be used to shed light on important issues, like the stark contrast between the political climates of her two homes and the impact of those differences on so many lives. She currently works for Hireology and writes in her spare time.
Contributing Reporter

Claudia Hernández

Claudia serves as the coordinator for the Translating Chicago Stories project that Borderless Magazine runs on behalf of the Institute for Nonprofits News. She earned her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism and digital media production at UT El Paso. Born in Ciudad Juárez, México, Claudia splits her time between her hometown and El Paso, Texas. She is a dual citizen and speaks both Spanish and English. Claudia has worked as a photo editor at bilingual publications such as The Prospector and Minero Magazine. She is the co-founder of Pasos en el Norte, a bilingual publication of short stories about the border and its unique culture. In 2020, she participated in NPR’s Next Generation Radio project. One of her passions is photography, she has travelled around several continents photographing its beauty and the variety of cultures.
Contributing Photojournalist, Former Pathways Photojournalism Intern

Efrian Soriano

Efrain is a photojournalist and community reporter based in Cicero, IL. Raised by Mexican immigrants, Efrain proudly identifies as Chicana and speaks Spanish and English. Their focus lately has been staying civically engaged, community organizing and utilizing their art background as a tool for change.

They have worked closely with organizations such as Cicero Independiente and MuckRock to address the information needs and language barriers in their community. Most recently, they have been dedicated to covering youth, education and the environment.

Contributing Reporter, former Pathways Community Reporting Intern

Maia McDonald

Maia is a local freelance journalist covering community news in Chicago. The granddaughter of Jamaican immigrants and a native of Chicago’s Southeast Side, she received her Bachelor’s degree of Journalism in Radio/TV Reporting and Anchoring from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2018.

After graduating, she was an environmental health and wellness reporter and editor for Free Spirit Media’s The Real Chi newsroom in Chicago’s Homan Square neighborhood, a reporting intern for Block Club Chicago for more than a year and a Fall 2022 civic reporting fellow for City Bureau, where she and other fellows looked into Illinois’ temporary work industry.

She’s also reported for The TRiiBE and Austin Weekly News, was a freelance podcast producer for The Poetry Foundation, and is a member of the Chicago Headline Club’s 2023 FOIA Fest Boot Camp Cohort.

When Maia isn’t working for Borderless Magazine as a community reporting intern, she is continuing her work reporting on neighborhood news from across the city at Block Club Chicago as a freelance reporter.

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Contributing Reporter

Saleha Soadat

Saleha Soadat is an award-winning multimedia journalist from Afghanistan. After the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021, she was evacuated to the United States. Saleha was born and raised in Kabul, and throughout her early life she experienced inequality, discrimination, injustice and civil war. After 9/11 and the arrival of U.S. forces along with the international community to expel the Taliban, things improved: She and other Afghan women became hopeful because they had the opportunity to get an education and grow professionally.

Without the Taliban’s anti-women policies, Saleha was able to complete high school and enroll in Kabul University, where she graduated with a degree in journalism and starting her career in radio and TV. Saleha was a regular contributor to ToloNews, a private news channel in Kabul, broadcasting the main bulletin every evening.

Saleha has earned multiple awards as a journalist in Afghanistan, including two “Best Reporter” Awards from Afghanistan’s parliament and senate; seven national awards, including for her reporting on human rights; and was named a “Peace Reporter” by the United States Institute of Peace. These awards reflect her expertise, experiences and commitment to the causes that are so important to her.

In addition to her journalism experiences, Saleha was an independent parliamentary candidate representing Kabul in the 2018 Afghanistan parliamentary elections.

Consultant

Sebastián González de León y León

Sebastián is a journalist, producer, and digital strategist. He is based in St. Petersburg, Flo., but he is originally from Mexico City where he studied Political Science and started his career. He has worked in newsrooms across the US and Mexico, and is today the publisher for San Pedro Gazette, a local news project in the Tampa Bay area. He is also a social media consultant helping brands establish their creative strategy and operation.

Past Contributors

Contributing Reporter

Ata Younan

Ata is a multimedia storyteller. As a first generation American Assyrian born in Iraq, she is interested in exploring the nuance at the intersection of origin, culture and identity. When she is not writing, she manages production at Northeastern Illinois University’s Stage Center Theatre and dabbles in video production. This year, she is producing her first short film.
Contributing Reporter

Leslie Hurtado

Leslie is a bilingual multimedia journalist who covers stories ranging from environmentalism to education, but her main focus is reporting on issues that impact diverse communities in Chicago, including the immigrant population. Raised by immigrants, Leslie has dedicated her time to write stories that fairly represent the immigrant experience. She is passionate about serving the immigrant community and shining light on issues that affect them through different communication mediums. Previously, she worked as a producing fellow for WTTW Chicago and worked at several newsrooms including: City Bureau, WBEZ Chicago, Cicero Independiente, WGN-TV, Telemundo Chicago, Spanish Public Radio, and more. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications and journalism from Northeastern Illinois University. When she is away from her desk, she is watching foreign films with her husband or unwinding to jazz pianist Thelonious Monk’s music.
Contributing Reporter

Thy Anh Vo

Thy is a journalist who has reported on local government, policy and politics in California and Colorado.

She started her career in journalism watchdogging city halls and county government in Orange County, CA, the community where she grew up. She has also reported for The Mercury News in San Jose, ProPublica's Electionland project and most recently The Colorado Sun, where she received top regional honors for her coverage of the 2021 redistricting cycle.

Thy is of Vietnamese and Chinese descent and the daughter of refugees. She grew up speaking Vietnamese, and studied Mandarin Chinese while attending Haverford College.

Community Growth Assistant

Yazmin Dominguez

Yazmin Dominguez (she/her) is a media professional based in Chicago, IL focused on empowering local, independent media. As the Community Growth Assistant for Borderless Magazine, Yazmin assists with development and helps foster relationships between the community and Borderless.

Prior to joining Borderless, Yazmin spent four years at the Chicago Reader, where she helped create and grow the Chicago Independent Media Alliance, an alliance of over 60+ Chicago media outlets working to generate new revenue streams and increase visibility. Yazmin has previously worked as a reporting fellow for City Bureau and a production assistant for WTTW Chicago.