The staffing needs of Bilingual International continually evolve to meet the growing needs of the communities that we serve.
JASON BAKER received his Ph.D. in Languages and Literatures from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. While working as (among other things) an adjunct German professor, he served as a volunteer citizenship tutor in the Naturalization Assistance program for two years before leaving the academic arena entirely and coming on board as Interpreter Coordinator in 2012. For four years, Jason assisted the agency’s founder, Julia Ostropolsky, LCSW, with strategic planning, grant and financial management, and day-to-day agency operations before accepting directorship in 2016. As Executive Director, Jason is dedicated to carrying out the founder’s vision of equal access to services for all. A native St. Louisan, he has never had a more challenging, exhausting, or rewarding job.
ALICIA DELANEY serves as the Assistant Director for BIAS helping to oversee Agency Operations, Human Resources, Change Management, and has direct oversight of agency volunteers, communications, and development activities. Alicia earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Communications with an emphasis in Leadership and Public Relations from William Woods University. With a background in program development, advocacy, and nonprofit development, Alicia specialized in creating risk-prevention education, mental health, and leadership development programming for college aged-students. Outside of work, Alicia enjoys cross-stitching, taking dance classes and traveling with her partner.
MARIO CAMERE, ESQ. received his Juris Doctorate from the Saint Louis University School of Law in 2013. Mario joined Bilingual International in 2016. As the agency’s bilingual Director of Legal Services, Mario ensures that Bilingual International provides high quality, accessible legal services to various underrepresented immigrant communities. Moreover, Mario advises and assists his clients—primarily refugees and survivors of torture—with navigating the complexities of the United States immigration system. Mario has helped clients successfully naturalize as United States citizens, obtain permanent resident status, reunite with family members abroad through family reunification, avoid removal/deportation, and seek asylum in the United States.
REBECCA NIEDNER’s background in logistics, ESL, resettlement and advocacy for refugees and immigrants ensures that clients receive language access and quality communication. Rebecca received her undergraduate degree in Fine Art and Photography from Columbia College Chicago, her TESOL diploma and certification from Uni-Prep Institute, and is currently studying the Arabic language. She brings direct experience with Language Services operations management from working in that capacity with the International Institute of St. Louis.
KERSTEN HORN, MA joined the agency at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and oversaw emergency response programming. After the pandemic abated, Kersten continued in the role of Special Projects Director in charge of a wide range of operational and systems-related initiatives. Kersten was born in Germany and attended college in France and the United Kingdom. He holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences and Economics in European Union Studies from Cardiff University (UK) and an MA in Germanic Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. His professional experience prior to joining Bilingual International includes teaching, language services, and program management.
KIMBERLY OSMANAGIC received her Masters of Counseling from St. Louis University. While she has a background working with adolescents and facilitating conflict resolution she also has over 14 years of experience providing individualized therapy to foreign born immigrants and refugees. At Bilingual International, Kimberly oversees two major programs: STEPS to Better Health and Peer Health Coaching for Immigrants/Refugees. Kimberly is fluent in Bosnian. She easily adjusts to various cultures, diverse backgrounds and many languages, while maintaining professionalism, a great attitude, and a helpful demeanor.
LORNA VAUGHN, LPC, holds an MA in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University and joined Bilingual International after many years working on the front lines of mental health crisis intervention in St. Louis. With a work history that includes ALM Hopewell Center, Behavioral Health Response, and Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Center, Lorna excels at providing a calming presence in situations of extreme psychological distress. Lorna is currently providing counseling under the STEPS to Better Health program. She also works with the Social Servicea Department serving non-foreign-born seniors in St. Louis City. Lorna is also a licensed ACA Navigator.
MIRANDA GACE came to Bilingual International as a professional interpreter and quickly alerted us to the needs of the small but underserved Albanian and Kosovar communities in the area. She has since worked to secure U.S. citizenship and social services for many older permanent residents of this community. Miranda has a background in teaching and journalism, and she served as the Executive Director of the Society for Democratic Culture in Tirana, Albania for almost a decade. Miranda is a community leader in the true sense of the word, an advocate for her people, and a member of numerous organizations and Boards outside the agency including Family Care Health Centers.
THINH NGUYEN was born in Vietnam and holds a Journalism and Law degree from universities in Hanoi. He also holds a Masters in Legal Studies from Webster University. Initially working with the agency’s Vietnamese client base as a Community Access Worker, Thinh transitioned in Fall of 2014 to the position of Survey Researcher. As such, he oversees all surveys in support of agency programming/reporting as well as the analysis and interpretation of survey data.
ELLEN SHERMAN is no stranger to Bilingual International. One of three founding board members, she served as the President of the Board of Directors for two consecutive terms. Under her leadership, the agency grew from a small team of five to a larger, vibrant, and productive team of 12 staff members. Her background includes an MA in Gerontology and over 40 years working in long term care and community based senior services. As an experienced Volunteer Coordinator, Ellen’s dedication and positive energy is truly contagious.
DALY SULLENTRUP serves as Bilingual International’s Bookkeeper, having previously worked in an estate planning law firm and for many years with a non-profit labor organization. Born in Cuba as the daughter of missionary parents who left Havana in 1961, Daly is bilingual, fluent in English and Spanish. Daly has lived and worked in Florida, Mexico City, Texas, and, for the last 14 years, Missouri. Daly welcomes the job’s challenges as she continues to collaborate with Bilingual International’s leadership team with the ultimate goal of sustained organizational success.
ELI HOXHA was born in Albania and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1997. She graduated from Saint Louis University with her Bachelors in Social Work. Her work ethic and compassionate care for aging populations makes her a unique asset on the Bilingual team. Eli serves as the Citizenship Coordinator for older adults and also oversees Senior Center Operations at Bilingual International.
SAJIDA MOMENI received her B.A in Linguistic Humanities in Kabul, Afghanistan. She also received an Associates Degree in Human Services from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Sajida was born in Afghanistan and speaks Pashto and Dari fluently. Sajida worked for four years at the International Institute of St. Louis as a mental health case worker and worked for five and half years at Places for People as community support. Sajida is currently working at Bilingual International as a Community Access Worker.
PAUL WITTE, LPC, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature and Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Truman State University in 2010. He earned his Master Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Southern Oregon University in 2013 and began work that year with the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma in St. Louis. In 2016, Paul served as the clinical supervisor for the Belize City Community Counseling Center, which operated under the the Ministry of Human Services and provided mental health services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Paul Witte returned to St. Louis to serve several years as a therapist on Project Safe Space before accepting a position as Coordinator of the St. Louis Partnership for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. After helping secure a 5-year extension for that federal program, he remains attached as a therapist.
ENISA BALOGUN, LPC, was born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She provided lay counseling in Bosnia for 14 years before moving to the U.S. to pursue and complete her Masters of Arts in Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary. Enisa is bilingual in Bosnian and English with experience providing community-based therapy to clients from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Enisa is a coffee enthusiast and when not working can be found hanging out in coffee shops.
MARIA DEL ROSARIO BOBADILLA, CSJ, LMFT is a psychotherapist/counselor with decades of experience working with families, couples and individuals. Maria also has a Chaplain Certification for Missouri. She works with an eclectic methodology with strong roots in pastoral counseling. Among other therapy directions, she uses a holistic orientation working with the whole areas of the person. Currently, Maria lives in the city of St. Louis and works as a bilingual therapist for Bilingual International at Casa de Salud’s Mental Health Collaborative, a chaplain at Mercy Hospital, and leads therapy groups. Maria likes to walk, hike and visit the beautiful parks of Missouri.
CANDACE KILPATRIC, PLPC is a provisionally licensed counselor working under the STEPS to Better Health program. She holds a Master’s degree in Education from Washington University in St. Louis and spent 20 years working as a teacher. In 2016, Candace completed a Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She has previously worked in the treatment unit of the St. Louis County Department of Family Services and has worked in schools with children and youth through counseling internships. Candace is married and the mother of an adult son and college student daughter.
RANIA ABBOUD graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Business Administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2013. She is a native speaker of Arabic and has worked with many different agencies in the capacity of interpreter across a broad range of settings including schools, private sector companies, medical settings, and courtrooms. She also worked as an Arabic instructor for adults and as a private French tutor for young children. Rania has a passion for helping Limited English Proficient individuals, which is rooted in the struggles that she experienced herself upon arriving in the U.S. from Lebanon. Most recently, Rania began coursework toward Department of Justice accreditation to represent clients at USCIS.
ABBY CEDANO JIMENEZ, LCSW was born in St. Louis and attended The University of Arkansas for her undergraduate degree in Psychology and African Studies. After a volunteer year working for a nonprofit serving the foreign-born community in Philadelphia, she returned to St. Louis to obtain her Masters in Social Work from Washington University. She has practicum and work experience at various immigrant service providers in the area with both children and adults. Abby is passionate about learning from different cultures and always trying to find more ways to travel. After three years as a therapist on the St. Louis Partnership for Survivors of Torture, Abby assumed the coordination of that project in 2022.
EILEEN CHEONG was born in New York City to parents that immigrated from Singapore, where she grew up among a multitude of cultures and later taught abroad as an ESL teacher in Hainan, China. She moved to Saint Louis to earn her Masters in Art Therapy Counseling from Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville in 2013. As a nationally Registered Art Therapist she specializes in narrative and person-centered therapy to encourage the artistic process as a catalyst for healing and to envision positive change in our communities. With 200 hour foundational training in yoga, Eileen provides skill building in breathwork and mindfulness techniques to counter anxiety and depression. Through her experience as a crisis intervention counselor, she is adept at using trauma-informed approaches to counseling and believes in Relational-Cultural approaches to wellness to address the whole person along with their worldview.
DEANNA ZOLLER-COCIC fled her hometown of Sarajevo in 1992 during the siege with her two young children. As a refugee in Germany, she quickly learned German and worked as a Medical Assistant for German physicians in Wiesbaden. Deanna arrived in St. Louis in 1998 and worked in sales and customer service at Lambert International Airport for 15 years. For the past five years, she has worked as an interpreter with LAMP. Deanna works on the Social Services team and oversees the Bosnian senior group, as well as providing case work, citizenship, benefits assistance, Medicare counseling, etc. for our Bosnian-speaking clients.
MARIA CHILDRESS, LCSW, earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from St. Louis University. She has worked with refugee and immigrant adults and children for over 25 years. During this time, as a school social worker, social work administrator, Director of Mental Health, and behavioral health therapist, she has participated in the development of multiple supports for New Americans in the St. Louis Area. Maria currently serves as a clinical supervisor for provisionally licensed therapists on the St. Louis Partnership for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma project.
LIZ RICKS-AHERNE, LMSW received her Master of Social Work degree and Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from Saint Louis University in 2019, with emphases on clinical practice, older adults, end of life, and grief. Liz has spent time living in Germany supporting people with migration backgrounds, worked with grieving children and families, managed translation projects, and published about trauma-informed care. As a Project Safe Space clinician, Liz uses a variety of therapeutic tools to support each person’s unique path toward healing, including art, music, books, writing, and play. Liz assumed the additional responsibility of project direction in 2022. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, singing, and travel.
ANNA MOORE, PLPC earned her Master’s degree in Art Therapy Counseling from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2021 where she focused her research on the creation and evaluation of a creative psychoeducational program for immigrant youth and unaccompanied minors in St. Louis. Prior to joining BIAS, her work has emphasized acute psychiatric care, behavioral health, eating disorders, and creating identity-affirming spaces in clinical settings. Anna has completed presentations at both national and state level conferences and has co-authored two art therapy related publications. In combination with her background in trauma-informed and context-considerate therapeutic practice, Anna provides a creative approach to exploring and healing with art-making techniques, materials, and media. Anna assumed the additional responsibility of project coordination in 2022.
NIYOYAKIRA ROZINETI received her BA in International Relations with a minor in International Human Rights from Webster University in 2018. Born in Burundi, Niyoyakira (or “Rozi”) lived as a refugee in Tanzania before arriving in the US in 2007. She brings lived refugee experience to her position as a Case Manager on the St. Louis Partnership for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. Niyoyakira has worked with the International Institute of St. Louis and Kingdom House (now LifewiseSTL), and has broad volunteer experience providing language access for her community. Niyoyakira speaks Kirundi and Swahili and continues to oversee her congregation’s youth program in a volunteer capacity.
CARRIE KOWIESKI, LCSW lived in California for most of her adult life and earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014. She has worked with diverse communities in a variety of settings including skilled nursing, acute hospital, assisted living, and with chronically ill people at risk of losing their housing in San Francisco, as well as volunteering with Zen Hospice. She moved to St. Louis in 2019 to care for her grandmother and be closer to family. She is glad to have found a professional home at Bilingual International where she uses her experience providing trauma-informed care as a mental health therapist.
RAFAELA HAJDINI (or “Ela”) was born in Korça, Albania and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1996. She is currently studying Early Childhood Special Education at Saint Louis University. She also teaches Albanian to children through Shoqata Iliria, a local Albanian immigrant cultural organization that helps immigrants maintain bicultural identity. Ela initially came to Bilingual International through a university internship in the Fall of 2021 and stayed on as a Community Access Worker later that year.
YING JIANG, MA/MS was born in China and came to the United States to continue her academic pursuits in medicine and psychology. She obtained a Masters of Science in Health Psychology from University of Michigan – Dearborn. After that, she completed her Masters of Arts in Neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis. With a passion to be an advocate for the aging population, she joins Bilingual International serving as a Community Access Worker and Mandarin Interpreter. Outside work, Ying enjoys family time with her husband, their daughter, and two dogs.
LAURA BRINK, J.D., combines her interest in helping refugees and immigrants with her law background as part of the Legal Services Department. Originally from Kansas City, Laura studied in the Chicago area at Northwestern University, graduating with a B.A. in History and Urban Studies. She received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Kansas School of Law. Laura previously practiced law at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Most recently, she assisted refugees and immigrants for ten years at Christian Friends of New Americans in St. Louis as the Health and Wellness Coordinator and Ministry Associate.
RAHMATULLAH HAMDARD, MBA has been working in international NGOs and nonprofits for almost a decade. As a teen, he began working with nonprofits in Afghanistan such as SKATEISTAN and Free to Run International. He also founded his own NGO called HELA (Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan) in 2015 and graduated from Dunya University in Afghanistan with an Masters in Business Administration. Due to the Taliban takeover, Rahmatullah and his family were evacuated to the United States in September, 2021. His interest in helping refugees and his identification with the organization’s mission led Rahmatullah to Bilingual International in May, 2022, where he directly assists the community as an adult services Case Manager.
HANNAH KLUENDER, LMSW earned her Bachelor’s degree in International and Area Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. They continued their education at WashU and earned their Master’s in Social Work in 2022, concentrating in Mental Health with an emphasis on the experiences of LGBTQ populations with migration backgrounds or desires. Hannah has experience providing supportive and relief services to displaced individuals and families as well as with unhoused and foster youth. Hannah seeks to cultivate a safe and identity-affirming space to support each individual on their path towards healing. In her free time, Hannah enjoys hiking, singing and making music, and playing volleyball.
LISA VILCHIS was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, but has lived in Missouri for over 30 years. Her mother is Cuban, her father Mexican, and her grandparents served as missionaries in Havana, Cuba, until they came back to the United States in 1961. Lisa spent most of her adult years traveling the United States until settling down in St. Louis, MO and starting her own family. Lisa is a mother to two boys, but still enjoys travelling in her downtime and taking her children on cross-country adventures. She oversees daily operations, meals, transportation, and planning at the Macklind International Senior Center and interacts with the diverse participants that attend each day.
SAGE LUNGELE was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and grew up in Kenya. She migrated from Kenya to the United States in 2015 with her father, and brings lived experience to her role as a Swahili-speaking Community Access Worker. Sage is currently pursuing a Political Science degree at Harris Stowe State University.
ARELI MUNOZ REYES was born in Mexico and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with her Bachelors in Social Work. She returned to St. Louis to obtain her Masters in Social Work from Washington University. Areli continues to dedicate her time and passion for immigrant rights. She currently serves as a practicum clinician with Project Safe Space, working primarily with children in St. Louis County. Areli enjoys walking and hiking, as well as travel and learning from different cultures.
HAROON SAFI was born in Afghanistan, and first began working with Afghan refugees while in Pakistan during the war. After working in security and logistics, Haroon completed a Political Science and Law degree at Tabesh University in Kabul before coming to the US in 2014. He has been professionally active as an interpreter and cultural advisor, speaking Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Punjabi, since arriving in St. Louis in 2014. With the wave of Afghan evacuees in 2021, Haroon began volunteering extensively with the new arrivals. He currently coordinates the federal Services to Afghan Survivors Impacted by Combat (SASIC) program, oversees a team of multilingual Afghan case workers, and serves as a primary community liaison with other agencies providing support and resources.
SASHA ZIVANOV was born in Salzburg, Austria and grew up in Sanski Most, Bosnia. After that country’s civil war, he immigrated to the US in 2002. Since 2004, he has been working with refugees and immigrants in the South St. Louis area through faith-based service initiatives. Sasha speaks the primary languages of the former Yugoslavia (Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian) and is an ordained minister. He finds joy in helping people in need and serves as the primary screener and Client Services Coordinator of the St. Louis Partnership for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. Sasha enjoys being outdoors and appreciates that the Show Me State has a lot of outdoors to show.
NAILA SAFI was born in Afghanistan and moved to the US in 2017 with her family. She graduated from Bayless High School and is currently taking night classes toward a nursing degree. When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in 2021, Naila began volunteering her time to help evacuated Afghans in St. Louis with interpretation and transportation. Naila speaks Pashto, Dari, and Urdu, and has also worked as an interpreter with the MICA Project and International Institute for Afghan asylum interviews. Her journey as a case worker started with Bilingual International Assistant Services, and she is so happy to be helping others.
AZIZULLAH TAAJ was born in Afghanistan, where he began working with an NGO after completing school to provide needed aid and support to the Afghan people. In 2001, following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Azizullah began working with the US military as a professional interpreter. Through his expertise and skills, the US special forces were able to better understand and navigate the complexities of Afghan culture and politics. In addition to his work with the military, he also completed a law degree from Nangarhar University. In 2009, he immigrated to the US, where he continued to work relentlessly to help others and make a positive difference for those in need. Since 2021, he has volunteered his time and resources extensively to support new Afghan arrivals, and his dedication and kindness endeared him to many in their new community.
MOHAMMED ALSHAMRANI is a doctoral candidate in the Medical Family Therapy program at St. Louis University, Department of Family and Community Medicine and has a a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In addition to providing family mental health interventions for recently arrived Afghan families, Mohammed works as a behavioral health provider in the Family Medicine Department at SLUCare. He is well-versed in utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to assess, treat, and support individuals, couples, and families, often from a family systems approach. Mohammed hails from Saudi Arabia, is fluent in Arabic and English, and pursues his love of travel and soccer in his free time.
REBECCA IHLE, PLPC earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Webster University, where she coordinateded the Webster Institute for Clinical Scholarship (WICS) from 2021 through 2023. She completed her field experience at Casa de Salud’s Mental Health Collaborative through Mercy Professional Services. Rebecca is currently a member of the American Mental Health Association, Missouri Mental Health Counselor’s Association, and the American Counselor’s Association. She is dedicated to working with diverse and marginalized populations of all ages who are high-need and underserved. Rebecca practices an integrative counseling approach utilizing person centered, strengths-based, solution-focused, emotion-focused, somatic experiencing, and trauma-informed therapy. Before pursuing a career in counseling, Rebecca served in the United States Coast Guard for 20 years and retired as a Lieutenant in 2019. During her Coast Guard career, she managed a range of EAP, suicide prevention, and special needs programs for military staff and families and chaired the Leadership Diversity Advisory Council. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. She also enjoys traveling, fitness, yoga, gardening, and mindful meditation.
IRYNA SHUKH was born in Ukraine and graduated form Kharkiv National University as an Economist. She has worked as an accountant, financial controller, and financial manager at manufacturing enterprises in Ukraine – as well as working with Unicef on their Ukrainian operations. Prior to coming to the US in 2022, Iryna lived in Donetsk and Kharkov. She enjoys the challenges that come with performing her job duties in a second language.
RANA ISSA was born in Iraq and spent most of her childhood as a refugee in Syria. As a native Arabic and Aramaic speaker, she joined the agency as an interpreter in 2020. However, her first connection with BIAS goes back a decade prior, attending a senior center group meeting with her grandmother and aunt while she was in middle school. In college, Rana interned at BIAS through for a Psychology program at St. Louis University, from which she graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and History. Currently, Rana serves as a Family Case Manager under Project Safe Space (PSS) and also as the Language Services Coordinator. Her lived experiences provide her with valuable insights into the challenges faced by communities served by BIAS. Rana hopes to continue her studies in social work, and finds joy in scrap journaling, learning new languages, and spending time outdoors in nature (preferably accompanied by a good book).
APRIL ESPEJO was born in the Philippines and speaks Tagalog and Ilokano (local dialect) fluently. She holds a Journalism degree and spent years producing social issue documentaries in the Philippines. After moving to St. Louis in summer of 2022, April has made it a point to be involved in the international community as well as the Filipino-American group to establish a local network. She is passionate about helping immigrants get equal access to healthcare and mental health services, something that she had to navigate herself when she first arrived in the US in 2018. April serves as Bilingual International’s Citizenship Tutor and Volunteer Coordinator for older adults. Outside of work, she loves to travel with her husband and daughter and immerse in different cultures.