Meet the Portland Empowered Team

Pious Ali

Executive Director

Pious has been deeply involved with Portland Empowered since its inception in 2010 at the City of Portland Refugee Service. As the founding director, he played a pivotal role in its establishment and continued growth. When the organization relocated to the University of Southern Maine Cutler Institute in 2014, Pious demonstrated his commitment by following it there.

His primary focus at Portland Empowered is to create opportunities for unengaged community members to voice their opinions and empower young individuals to advocate for themselves. He strongly believes in the importance of providing everyone with a platform for self-expression, whether they are students, families, or other community members. By facilitating engagement between these groups and their school districts, Pious aims to improve the quality of education for all students.

Pious is motivated by the belief that this work helps level the playing field for marginalized individuals and promotes equity within the educational system and the larger community. He sees it as a way to prepare young students and emerging leaders from diverse backgrounds for active participation in American democratic and public life.

Aside from his professional endeavors, Pious enjoys connecting with people and discussing topics related to public and civic engagement. He values the opportunity to exchange ideas over a cup of tea, demonstrating his genuine interest in fostering meaningful conversations within the community.

Jackie Rogers of Portland Empowered

Jackie Rogers

Program Manager & Logistics Coordinator

Jackie joined the Portland Empowered (PE) team in 2019. She works to provide robust and consistent support of youth, families, and other PE staff. She feels passionate about styles of communication that build our capacity for love and listening, so we can be courageous as we work through the process of change. She is deeply grateful to work with such a brilliant group of parents, young people, and colleagues. She spends her time caring for her daughter, loving her friends, learning about the natural world, and reading.

Sarai Manyiel

Program Specialist

Sarai Manyiel, M.S. Ed. has been with Portland Empowered since April 2023. She is a former teacher and will forever be an educator at heart. She is passionate about community advocacy, education, and collective wellness. She loves working with youth, parents, and young emerging leaders at PE. 

Swathi Sivasubramanian

Swathi joined the Portland Empowered team in 2023, and is primarily supporting Portland Empowered’s strategic visioning and planning process. Based out of the Catherine Cutler Institute at USM, Swathi manages and supports a range of initiatives, all working to create consistent and accessible pathways for young people to meaningfully participate in local and state-level decision making.

Swathi’s entry to youth-led advocacy and systems change was as a middle school science teacher. Swathi was inspired every day by the strength and conviction of her students’ voices as they proposed creative, compassionate solutions to the injustices surrounding them. From her students’ activism and her training in Kingian nonviolence, Swathi learned to believe fiercely in the power of collective action. She is so excited to work alongside young people who care about each other and about bettering Maine’s schools.

These days, Swathi is spending lots of time with her new baby. Together, they are exploring new hikes, singing and dancing, and lounging with their cats. 

Meet Our Student Interns!

Yasmeen Tum of Portland Empowered

Yasmeen Tum

Yasmeen has been a part of Portland Empowered since 2016. She started as a club member, and soon after became a Youth Lead Organizer. Now as a Sophomore at University of Southern Maine, Yasmeen is pursuing a degree in Biology, while also working with Portland Empowered as an Intern. She loves painting, baking (although she’s not that good at it), listening to comedy podcasts, and taking nature walks. This summer she built a chicken coop and is ready to care for two hens! She aspires to work in the healthcare field, and make a future in the Greater Portland area. Through YEP’s she has grown as a leader and is excited to see the ideas and change the youth of today will make. She hopes to see the students of Portland find their voice and grow as individuals.

Former staff

Bilalle Fulle of Portland Empowered

Bilalle Fulli

Billale has been involved with Portland Empowered since 2016. He started his journey in high school when he became a Youth Lead Organizer and attended the Youth Leadership Institute conference. For the past three years, he has been serving as an intern with Portland Empowered. Billale loves the progress within the organization over the past years and seeing individuals grow. He loves working first hand with students and helping to provide them with leadership skills in hopes of them becoming the future leaders of tomorrow. He is inspired by youth activism and is passionate about creating effective change for young people in their schools. Billale’s aspiration in life is to become either an educator or a social worker after he graduates USM, where he is currently majoring in Sociology and double minoring in Philosophy as well as Race and Ethnic Studies. When not with family or friends you can catch Billale either taking his daily spiritual walks around Portland or drinking his favorite Iced Vanilla Chai.

Lis Redwood

Director of Youth Programs

Lis has been advocating for minority communities for as long as she can remember. Being born in Jamaica and growing up in America is significant to her work. She looks forward to working with youth and supporting them to use their expertise and power to shape a path for equity.

Muntaha Mohamed of Portland Empowered

Muntaha Mohamed

Muntaha absolutely loves being a part of Portland Empowered, and one of her favorite elements of this work is the energy she experiences from Youth Engagement Partners and Youth Lead Organizers. She is uplifted by their drive to better their schools and communities. And she is grateful to have their laughter fill up the room. When she’s not helping with Portland Empowered, she’s assisting with Gateway to Opportunity and the Postsecondary Support Project. In her free time, she loves writing poetry and prose, listening to all kinds of music, reading, and spending lots of time with her family and friends.

Victoria Pelletier

Lead Facilitator and Director of Community Outreach

Tori Pelletier looks forward to working with PE parents and families on program development and equitable community facilitation. Her passion is working to advance racial equity in the school system and community. Outside of the workplace, Tori enjoys reading, boxing and enjoying Portland’s local food scene.