Meet the Parent Lead Organizers!

The priorities of the Parent Engagement Partners are supported by Parent Lead Organizers who meet weekly to conduct outreach, develop strategies, and plan and facilitate campaigns around local education reform. Parent Engagement Partners typically each represent and work most closely with a specific high school where they attend or have a family connection.

Lead Organizers are critical ambassadors who are able to make connections between schools and other parents or community members, some of whom do not speak English or have had minimal access to education. Meet our Parent Lead Organizers below!

Christine Biyoga

Christine Biyoga is originally from Burundi and is proud mother of 3 wonderful children. She is an early childhood educator and dedicated Portland Empowered Parent Ambassador. She speaks French, Swahili, Kirundi/Kinyarwanda and Lingala.

Jolie Iraoya, Parent Lead Organizer for Portland Empowered

Jolie Iraoya

Jolie is a mother of four boys. They all attend school in Portland, including two in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school. Jolie migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Nigeria before coming to the U.S. She speaks four languages and is currently learning American Sign Language (ASL) so she can support and engage her son who has some hearing challenges.

Lucia Rico, Parent Lead Organizer for Portland Empowered

Lucia Rico

Spoken Languages: Spanish, English

Having experienced challenges as a student herself, Lucia believes in the mission of PEPs and its efforts to help other families and students find the supports they need in order to achieve their full potential. She advocates for building communities of acceptance where all can succeed. Lucia is devoted to working with the community.

Micky Bondo, Parent Lead Organizer at Portland Empowered

Micky Bondo

Spoken Languages: French, Lingala, English

Micky believes that PEP creates a platform for parents and educators to connect, share expertise, and work towards an inclusive approach to student centered learning, bridging parental involvement with student success, identifying areas of support, creating leadership opportunities, and sharing the voice of the disenfranchised to ensure that no child is left behind. Micky has 2 children currently attending the Portland School System, both Deering High School students. Micky works as an interpreter for the Portland Public School system. She is also the co-founder of In Her Presence, an organization led by immigrant women to navigate the integration and social justice process. Micky also serves on the board of Opportunity Alliance and is involved with the United Way and Thrive2027, as well as the Congolese Community of Maine.

Nolasque Isirabahenda, Parent Lead Organizer for Portland Empowered

Nolasque Isirabahenda

Spoken Languages: French, English, Kirundi/Kinyarwanda

Nolasque believes that Portland Empowered uses an essential approach for connecting schools and communities, face to face interaction, with an innovative tool for engagement- shared space café. This approach allows for positive discussions amongst different partners in education about how to improve the education system and increase chances for success of our young people. Nolasque believes that spreading awareness about education and related opportunities for children is the key to a bright future for our community and others all over the world. Nolasque has 3 children who attended Portland Schools.

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Rita Achiro

Former Parent Lead Organizers

Layla Mohamed, Former Parent Lead Organizer at Portland Empowered

Layla Mohamed

Spoken Languages: English, Somali, Arabic, French, Turkish

Layla sees a lot of value in how Portland Empowered makes information about the Portland school system understandable and accessible and works hard to bring the tools that Portland Empowered gives her to her community. She encourages all members of her community to participate in Portland Empowered events, because she believes that parents who are connected with schools and who know where resources and help can be found are key to student success. Layla has a daughter in King Middle School and a son who is a freshman at Portland High School.

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Lievino M. Lobi

Lisa Whited, Parent Lead Organizer for Portland Empowered

Lisa Whited

Lisa values being part of an inclusive community and believes that school teachers and administrators connecting with immigrant families and students is a key component of a welcoming and vibrant community. Having attended Portland schools herself, Lisa has had two children graduate the Portland school system, and has one other child currently attending Portland High School. Lisa owns a business called Workplace Transformation Facilitation based in Portland, serves as a consultant to a global organization called Advanced Workplace Associates based in the UK, and also volunteers with the Portland chapters of Conscious Capitalism, Pecha Kucha and the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute.

Maria Cushing, Parent Lead Organizer at Portland Empowered

Maria Cushing

Spoken Languages: Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole

Maria Cushing is a native of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. Aside from being a parent organizer, she works as a Community Health Outreach Worker (CHOW) and interpreter. She believes that PEP is helping to bridge the gap between teachers and parents, creating better communication and improving education outcomes, by genuinely involving parents, and their concerns, in the education process. Maria has 2 grandchildren attending Portland Schools, including Deering and Portland High.

Nsiona Nguizani, former Parent Lead Organizer for Portland Empowered

Nsiona Nguizani

Spoken Languages: English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Lingala, Kikongo

Portland Empowered is the needed bridge between parents and school system to ensure better communication between parties and the success of children in school. The school system in the U.S. is such that parents must be involved in the education of their children by constantly monitoring things that happen in school, at home, and between home and school. Myself, as an immigrant parent, I see first-hand the importance of parents’ awareness of their contributions to the education of their children, as well as the importance of school system’s need for parental involvement in decisions related to the education of their children. I have 3 children currently attending the Portland School System, all of them go to Ocean Avenue Elementary School. I’m restudying Accounting and Economic at University of Southern Maine, and work as a Transport-Logistic Tech at Maine Medical Center. I’m also the Sitting President of Angolan Community of Maine, an organization of immigrants originally from Angola.