Kristin Fortier is completely outraged at the oppression and dehumanization happening in our country towards people of color and immigrants. Witnessing the racism happening to friends and loved ones compelled her commitment to backing local immigrant rights groups and their efforts to protect the vulnerable. Kristin has worked in the Windham, Mansfield, and Coventry Public Schools systems for over 15 years working with kiddos with autism and special education, as a Teaching Artist/Muralist and After School Coordinator. Kristin holds a bachelor’s degree in painting and printmaking and has been a muralist for over 20 years working in local schools, libraries, colleges and private residences. Kristin is also a member of the Windham Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Vania Galicia-Bacilio is an immigrant who has lived in Willimantic Connecticut since she was three years old. She first began organizing when she was 16 years old through a local organization called GROW Windham, which inspired her to become more involved in the immigrants’ rights movement. Since, she has been involved in the movement through several local organizations such as, Connecticut Students For a Dream, The Windham Immigrant’s Rights Coalition, Freedom at Eastern, and The Neighbor Fund. She is now attending Eastern Connecticut State University and working towards earning her English bachelor’s degree, and plans to use her degree to attend Law school in order to become an immigration lawyer.
Tatiana Gomez grew up in Medellin, Colombia and moved with family to the United States when she was 9 years old. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.A. in Especial Education from UConn. She has been working at Windham High School since 2014 with new arrival students, as a Special Education and ESL teacher. She is the program leader for the ESOL Department at Windham high, and a proud advocate of student rights and needs. Currently Tati is working on her Ed.D at UConn with a research focus on best practices for students with interrupted or limited formal education. Tati lives in Willimantic with her partner and three ferrets. On her free time, she likes to read manga, write poetry and short stories and watch films.
Glenn Mitoma grew up in California and New Hampshire spending much of his time making photographs and falling off skateboards. He attended the UC Santa Cruz earning a BA in photography, and after several years working in the creative field in Seattle, Glenn returned to graduate school in California and earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies. Today, he lives in Mansfield, Connecticut, with his wife, two sons, three dogs, two cats, and flock of chickens, and works at UConn as a professor of human rights and education. Glenn is the grandson of Masako and Tatsuya Mitoma, who, along with their families, were incarcerated in the Topaz Relocation Camp during the Second World War because of their Japanese ancestry. This history grounds his commitment to building inclusive communities, combating racism and xenophobia, and working to promote a culture of human rights.
Kathleen Tonry grew up in New York and California. She now lives in Mansfield with her husband and three tall children, and is an English professor at UConn. Her commitment to immigration as a human right was formed during time spent in San Jose, CA, working for a state jobs program. Over two summers, she and her colleagues – (mostly) first-generation Vietnamese refugees – worked in solidarity with (mostly) young Mexican immigrants to find new solutions to housing, food, communication and legal needs. Her work on the Neighbor Fund is motivated by the diversity and energetic optimism of our community.
Chris Vials is Director of American Studies at the University of Connecticut and lives with his wife Cathy Schlund-Vials in Willimantic. He has been involved in a number of issues in Connecticut, including advocacy for unions representing carpenters, laborers, and public sector workers; he also served on the Windham Energy Commission to help bring more energy efficiency and solar power to the town. He got involved with the Neighbor Fund to help those who have been unfairly scapegoated for the failures of an economy that does not help the majority.