Co Director, Programs & Communications
Jessica Eckerstorfer (siya, she, hers) is a 2nd generation, Filipina-American who grew up all over the Midwest, but settled in Minneapolis in 2012. She is a strong feminist, who believes in the intersectionality of social justice and the necessity of empathetic creativity. In addition, she is the Co-Founder and Artistic Community Director of Paranoid Tree Press. Her background is solidly based in arts nonprofit programming. She has dual Bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy with a focus of civic life and engagement from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Fiction from Columbia College Chicago. She is a two time recipient of the Albert P. Weisman Award, and her work can be found in The Ivory Tower, Pilcrow & Dagger, and Paper Darts Lit + Art Magazine.
Co Director, Partnerships and Development
Kaysone Syonesa (she/her/hers) is a 1.5 generation Lao American who is one of the first Lao refugees to hold a BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota. She was born in the Salavan Province of Laos and has heritage from Laos and Vietnam. She has many years working alongside communities of color as an individual artist and with organizations at the local, national, and international level. She brings a multitude of talent from the private, nonprofit, education, and government sectors. Her unique background and multidisciplinary experiences include community development & engagement, strategic partnerships & funding, systems change, facilitative leadership, diversity & inclusion, racial equity, advocacy, social services, program management, and youth engagement. She is a performance storyteller at her core, and flourishes at interconnecting creativity and community to continuously approach her work with an artistic and justice lens.
Lead Visual Designer
Charmaine (siya, they) is a 1.5 generation Filipino in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Dedicated to nurturing an interdependent relationship between social justice work, cultural work, and their art, they align themselves with Toni Cade Bambara's concept of the artist—one who aids the revolution by making it irresistible. They are a founding member of a Chicago-based experimental creative collective called commonfolk. Charmaine has dedicated years of design work for various non-profit and grassroots organizations and programs throughout the Chicagoland area. They are an interdisciplinary artist who illustrates, designs graphics and physical products, and dabbles with spatial curation, fashion styling, events, and music.
Tri (he/ask) has provided enthusiastic labor for many BIPoC led small businesses, mission-led orgs, and political initiatives as long as he's had a driver's license, which itself wasn't until he needed to drive to internships at 21 years old. Tri counts himself among the new generation of baby Leftists trying to co-create the gospel of building strong communities beyond our profit-driven economies. His go-to karaoke songs pull from punk rock music, the High School Musical movies, and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Emotion" album.
Our Executive Board
Soua is an American and immigrant who came to the US with her family 25 yrs ago. During this time, Minnesota became her home. More specifically she lived with her parents and siblings on the Northside of Minneapolis where she attended the district’s schools and local university. Growing up in a diverse city, she didn’t see the same cultural vibrancy reflected in mainstream society, and later understood as an adult the implications of a lack of representation. As she joins the SEAD project in the capacity of a board member, she is passionate about disrupting that and shaping a world more just for the next generations. Soua holds a bachelor’s in Management Information Systems from the Carlson school of Management at the University of Minnesota. She is a seasoned consultant in Information Systems for Fortune 500s and now resides in Brooklyn Park, MN with her husband and children.
Eric La Nguyen
Eric is one of four children of Vietnamese refugees who met in 1977 in Spokane, Washington. He grew up bouncing around the country but moved to Minnesota over 20 years ago. He knows that he won’t be a perfect board member, but he hopes to help the community as much as he can. He is currently in St. Paul and working in development at a fundraising nonprofit here in the Twin Cities. He has a B.S. in Community & Nonprofit Leadership & a Master’s in Public Affairs.
Born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sopheak is a first-generation Cambodian-born American immigrant raised with Cambodian traditional collectivism, integrated with American individualism, and now on a journey towards creating his own Cambodian identity -- through learning, loving, and being. Sopheak strives to foster economic and social equity by creating instruments of change through his personal and professional work. He is currently in Seattle, WA and working in the technology sector with a focus on product strategy and operations. In his spare time, Sopheak searches for Southeast-Asian hole-in-the-walls food and unofficially embarks on a mission to try as many types of pickled fruits and vegetables as he could. The name Sopheak, pronounced soh-paek, stemmed from a many-thousand-years-old language known as Khmer. Influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, Khmer dialects are rich in history dating back to the Pre-Angkorian period in 600 CE and evolved through royal and religious registers into what is now known to many as Central Khmer."
Our SEA Roots Teachers
Bee Vang Moua
Hmong Lead Teacher
Bee (she/her) is currently the Director of Hmong Language Program in the Asian Languages and Literature Department at the University of MN Twin Cities. Besides her work in supporting students and structuring the Hmong language curriculum, Bee teaches first, second and third year students in the classroom. Prior to her work at the University of Minnesota, Bee worked and collaborated with Wilder Foundation, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys as well as Saint Paul Public Schools in many leading and coordinating roles. She has been a liaison for the schools, students and parents alike for over 15 years. She is currently the author to one of the first Hmong Language Textbooks as well as a facilitator and adviser to teachers of the Hmong language.
Khmer Lead Teacher
Sotheary (he/him) graduated from the Carlson School of Management with a Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration. He received his Masters of Art in Teaching from St.Thomas University. Sotheary has 27 years of experience of teaching bilingual, ESL, and mathematics. He taught different levels of Khmer language and culture with SEASSI at Cornell University (NY), University of Washington - Seattle, and University of Wisconsin - Madison. Currently, Sotheary works as a medical interpreter. Sotheary enjoys fishing, shopping, and playing volleyball.
Lao Lead Teacher
Akarath Soukhaphon (he/his)