About Us

Meet our Board of Directors:

I have always been shaped, I think, by my family’s refugee story (fleeing Nazi Germany before W.W.II), but over the last several years I also have been inspired by the strong and wonderful immigrants and refugees who have become my friends – and shared with me their stories, amazing food(!), and constant frustrations. My goal for Golden Door is to support and ease the transition for immigrants, while at the same time broadening the understanding about immigrants among the rest of us.  I have been teaching citizenship classes and assisting immigrants for many years, through the Connecticut Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations.  For even more years, I have been teaching immigrant history and American history at the University of Hartford.  I received a B.A. from Wesleyan University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.  It was during my graduate school years that I began to think seriously about the amazing work done earlier in America’s history by social settlement workers, and the need to carry on that important work today. I look forward to doing that, while sharing warm cups of tea with our new American neighbors.

I am uncannily attracted to people from other countries and have designed my life accordingly. For over two decades I have represented non-natives before USCIS and the Immigration Court. I am particularly drawn to asylum-seekers, those who have been persecuted in their home countries. I also have served and continue to serve on the boards of non-profits benefiting those from other countries: Sudan Sunrise, Maika, Inc. and now Golden Door of Hartford. From 2006-2011, I acted as the first Pro Bono Coordinator of the International Institute of Connecticut (IICONN). I am obsessed with Human Rights, especially Women’s Rights, doing what I can to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Marriage world-wide; and I am happiest when hanging out with those from other countries and races and while practicing my Arabic.

I am a native of Nepal and immigrated to the United States in 2006. As an immigrant, I am fond of connecting with other immigrant families.  I am especially interested in helping new immigrants successfully settle in the United States through guidance and professional mentoring, and by sharing useful information I learned as a first- generation immigrant. I understand the power of information for new immigrants to survive and develop personally and professionally in the United States. I earned an MBA from the University of Hartford, and I am currently a Manager in Financial Reporting and Accounting Policy at Aetna.

Meet our Team:

Kristin Weiss, Administrator
I spent high school immersed in community service experiences, and am now a Music Theatre major at the University of Hartford. I was ecstatic when I first discovered that I’d be joining the Golden Door team and learning how best to aid the immigrant community. Since 2017, I’ve been lucky enough to learn from this organization as well as act as an administrator for social media and online resources.

Maria Khan, Program Consultant
I am originally from Pakistan and moved to the US for college in 2010, officially immigrating as a permanent resident here in 2019. Being so far away from home and my family, I know personally, first-hand how difficult life can be here and so I wanted to help people from different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, and countries. I gravitated towards Golden Door and wanting to create an environment for other immigrants who have had to leave their lives behind and move to a foreign country for a chance of a better life. I identify as a human who needs to help fellow neighbors, before I identify as a Pakistani.

Kharisha Laroco, Graduate Intern
I was born and raised in the Philippines, and immigrated to the U.S. when I was ten years old. Coming to a new country was a big transition for me. The only people I knew were my mom and my aunt. However, I soon found myself thriving at a small, private school from 4th-8th grade, which allowed a quiet and insecure girl to grow into a more confident person. I was part of the Wesleyan Upward Bound/TRIO program that served high school students from low-income families and first-generation students for college and career readiness. My experiences with Upward Bound, City Year, and teaching middle school girls in Hartford gave me insight into the importance of having programs and organizations that provide opportunities and resources for the underserved. I received a B.A. from College of the Holy Cross, and I’m now working towards a master’s degree in School Counseling and becoming licensed as a professional counselor.

Tineke Vandegrift,  Consultant — Organizational Development and Web Design
I was born to a Dutch mother and an American father and had the good fortune of spending my childhood in multicultural communities in India and the United States.  In addition to working as a psychologist in Concord, Massachusetts, I’m delighted to be part of the Golden Door team–helping to make Hartford and our nation a place of welcome for people of all nationalities.

Jamie Vandegrift,  2017 Summer Intern
I’m a chemistry major at Ursinus College, where I’m also a fellow in the Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good.  Interning at Golden Door helped me learn more about non-profit organizations and the challenges facing immigrants today.

Golden Door logo designed by Hannah Bethune.

We are always looking for new team members. Visit our Get Involved page to learn how you can help!