About Us

Meet our Board of Directors:

ELLEN SALZMAN-FISKE

President and Founder

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 their stories, amazing food(!), and constant frustrations with me. I have been teaching citizenship classes and assisting immigrants as a volunteer for many years. 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.

TINEKE C. VANDEGRIFT

Vice President

Although I was born an American citizen, my mother was Dutch, and my father was raised in India. I had the good fortune of spending my childhood in multicultural communities in India and the United States. I received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Psy.D. from William James College, and I’m currently working as a clinical psychologist in private practice. I believe that being a good neighbor to new immigrants means not just assisting and teaching , but also listening, learning, and valuing each person. 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.

ROJEEP SHRESTHRA

Treasurer

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:

ELIZABETH HANLON

Director of Education

I have been teaching English for over twenty years and began my work in adult education in 2011. I have a love for the Hartford area, and I find joy in connecting new residents to our community. I was born in Hartford, grew up in Pennsylvania and moved North shortly after graduating from Penn State University with a degree in Secondary English/Communications. I always tell my students that talking and meeting new people are my favorite things to do, so teaching adults English is the perfect job for me!  I consider it a great privilege to have relationships with my immigrant neighbors. While teaching English skills to adults, I am constantly amazed by how much I learn in return. I believe making conversation and connections benefits everyone.

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.