These 12 ‘Rising Stars’ shine

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

From left: Sahar Fathi, Rebecca Saldana, Courtney Gregoire, Mia Gregerson, Annya Pintak, Seiko Yamashita, Monisha Harrell, Andrea Cortes-Beltran, Mavis Orr, Sara E. Asatiani, Tera Beach, and Erica Buckley (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Twelve “rising stars” were honored for their work and contributions to the community on Friday, May 2. The young female professionals who are making a difference were recognized in the 18th annual Women of Color Empowered luncheon. The event, at China Harbor Restaurant, was emceed by Marci Nakano, program and events manager for the Executive Development Institute,

Sara Asatiani

Sara Asatiani, vice president of wealth management at Morgan Stanley and co-founder of W@MS, Women at Morgan Stanley, reads all the time. She said the book “Mighty Be Our Powers” by Leymah Gbowee inspired her to start doing something with more of an impact on others.

“I started to dream big,” Asatiani said. Asatiani said the greatest key to her success was that she managed her fears, and asked the audience, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Rebecca Saldaña

Rebecca Saldaña leads Puget Sound Sage’s Community Benefits and Development program focused on equitable, transit-oriented development.

Saldaña hoped to make a difference in the city by seeing transformations from the bottom up.

She graciously thanked her parents who took a huge risk by leaving Mexico for a fresh start.

She hopes to be a part of a movement of change and leadership that will provide inspiration for the next generation.

Sahar Fathi

Sahar Fathi, who is fluent in Farsi and French, is a policy analyst for the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Fathi has worked on immigrant and refugee issues for 10 years.

“I don’t understand the word ‘no,’ and my dad taught me that,” she joked.

Persistent and determined, Fathi attributed her success to the empowerment of people in the community.

Seiko Yamashita

Seiko Yamashita was a very curious child. She grew up wanting to know how things worked and how people lived their lives. Because of her curiosity about life and people, Yamashita read a lot of biographies, and knew she was a lifelong learner.

As an adult mental program clinical supervisor at Therapeutic Health Services, Yamashita says it’s never easy for her to explain to other people why she does what she does, especially to her parents. But in her day-to-day job, she said, she “gets to be a witness of life changes” and that inspires her to help others.

Tera Beach

Tera Beach is the deputy district director for Congressman Jim McDermott and has been working with McDermott since 1998. In her 16 years on McDermott’s staff, Beach has served as an essential connector for Seattle’s arts community with Congress. She is also dedicated to the project to restore honor to the African American veterans of Fort Lawton, who were unjustly court-martialed in 1944.

Beach credited McDermott as her mentor, and also Constance W. Rice as a pivotal figure in her life. The most important piece of advice she received was, “Don’t pretend to be anyone that you’re not.”

Mavis Orr

Mavis Orr is a firm believer in “following your heart.” She has lived in Hong Kong, Cyprus, and Germany, and has traveled to more than 20 countries. Her motto is, “When there’s a challenge, take it on.”

Having risen through the ranks from general manager to regional director of operations at Panda Express, Orr wears her Panda Express shirt with pride when she goes out in the community. Giving back to the community means a lot to her and she inspires her fellow associates to do the same every day.

Annya Pintak

Annya Pintak says she feels honored to be able to serve the community. She learns every day from the people she works with, and attributes her success to collaboration and partnerships in her life.

In September 2012, Pintak joined Global to Local to develop and implement the Connection Desk, a volunteer program that connects HealthPoint patients and South King County community members to social resources that will support their overall health and wellbeing.

She now serves as the program manager for the Connection Desk and also the Affordable Care Act In-Person Assister Program for Global to Local.

Erica Buckley

Erica Buckley is an associate attorney at Buckley & Associates in the International District.

She has successfully resolved over 250 cases and collected millions of dollars for her clients. Her father, James Buckley, is one of her greatest influences, as well as her boss. He taught her, “The truth is a fine horse to ride,” which reminds her, she said, to always live life with integrity and “to not do what you don’t want to see on the front page of the paper.” She has donated many hours of her time to the Junior League of Seattle and the Treehouse Young Professionals board.

Courtney Gregoire

Courtney Gregoire is deeply rooted in family. Her mother, former Governor Christine Gregoire, and her father, Mike, have been great mentors to her.

After she started her career, Gregoire said she started to embrace risk a lot more because she was living in different cities and having global experiences. She found ways to give back and echoed Pintak’s sentiments on the value of collaboration and partnerships.
“Collaborate or perish,” she said.

Andrea Ximena Cortés-Beltrán

Andrea Ximena Cortés-Beltrán lives by the saying, “One who perseveres, succeeds.” Her family has been her foundation, she said, and her family values have shaped and taught her to be humble.

One of Cortés-Beltrán’s proudest accomplishments was a conference that she planned last October for Latina women in the Puget Sound. She also has planned and executed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities for high school students.

Monisha Harrell

“Every day I strive to get to know people better and to get to know their needs,” Monisha Harrell said.

Harrell didn’t just have one mentor, she said, she had a village. Over the years, she has worked in marketing communications, community outreach, and served as a board fellow for Lifelong AIDS Alliance. She currently serves on the board for the Institute for a Democratic Future, the 21st Legislative District Democrats, and as board chair for Equal Rights Washington.

Mia Gregerson

Mia Gregerson said that the journey is knowing what is true and authentic, and finding the seeds of information, truth, and opportunities to achieve the right personal balance.

Gregerson is a first-term member of the state House of Representatives from the 33rd Legislative District. She is vice chair of the House Committee on Local Government and also serves on the Community Development, Housing, and Tribal Affairs Committee and the Higher Education Committee. “I promise to pay it forward,” she stated.

Nakano wrapped up the event by saying that these rising stars have only just begun as the 12 inspirational women will continue to accomplish more in the next few years. (end)

Women of Color Empowered is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by the Northwest Asian Weekly. The organization consists of professional women who want to enhance the quality of life for women of all races and backgrounds by supporting one another through programs and events that foster self-improvement and networking skills. The program provides opportunities to build cross-cultural and multi-generational relationships, and promotes community service.

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