Board of Directors
R. Bernal Cruz-Munoz
Guatemala (Board Chair)
Bernal is a Case Coordinator for the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Children’s program. With nearly a decade of experience providing complex mental health services to children and families in schools, hospitals, foster care, refugee and residential facilities for diverse populations, Bernal serves as a consultant with Equityworks Northwest, promoting a greater understanding of social justice and diversity, and as a member of Multnomah County Refugee Mental Health Task Force and UNITE Oregon. He is on the Multnomah County Public Health Advisory Board and he holds a postgraduate certificate from the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma. Bernal and his family sought refuge in the United States during the last years of the civil war in Guatemala. He is a founding member of the RISE Board.
Crimea (Board Vice-Chair)
Victoria came to the U.S. as a refugee from the former Soviet Union in 1991. For 23 years Victoria developed and managed the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization’s employment and training programs for refugee and immigrant adults and youth. In 2016 Victoria joined Worksystems, where she is responsible for workforce development initiatives aimed at serving English language learners, low-income jobseekers, and individuals with barriers to employment. She is lead staff to the Aligned Partner Network, community-based organizations collaborating to help individuals gain career-track employment. Victoria earned a M.A. in Education in the former Soviet Union and a M.A. in Social Work from Portland State University. She is co-author of "Mental Health in Immigration." She is a founding member of the RISE Board.
Teo DT Cho
Vietnam (Board Treasurer)
Teo Cho is a Tax Accountant with the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation. He earned his M.B.A in Finance and Accounting at Regis University School of Business and has worked in both the public and private sectors. Teo was born in Vietnam, and at the age of two, his family escaped the country by boat. After nine years in the refugee camp on Soko Island, Hong Kong, Teo and his family arrived in the United States in 1998. Over the years, Teo and his family were able to integrate into American culture and consider this country to be home.
United States (Board Secretary)
Nora Coon is an attorney in the Community Law division of Metropolitan Public Defender. She clerked for the Honorable Jack L. Landau at the Oregon Supreme Court and the Honorable Robyn Ridler Aoyagi at the Oregon Court of Appeals. She received her J.D. summa cum laude from Lewis & Clark Law School and earned her B.A. in English from Grinnell College. She is completing a postgraduate certificate at the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma. Nora previously served on the Street Roots Board. She is a founding member of the RISE Board.
ethiopia (board member)
Assefash Melles, a native of Ethiopia, came to the United States in 1972 and earned her Master’s degree in Counseling from Portland State University. Melles Counseling & Consulting Services has served the Portland area since 1989 and partnered with many local and national social service organizations to facilitate growth in individuals and groups by creating sustainable, culturally relevant service models. Since 2007, through her work at Lutheran Community Services, Assefash has been providing trauma- informed, strength-based, culturally appropriate, medical case management and mental health services to diverse communities.
Dr. Bassel Beitinjaneh
Syria (Board Member)
Dr. Beitinjaneh is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Beitinjaneh received his M.D. from the University of Damascus, Syria in 2004. After completing his residency training at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Dr. Beitinjaneh came to Portland and OHSU in order to pursue training in cardiology, advanced heart failure and transplantation, in addition to cardiac electrophysiology. His general practice focus is on the treatment of patients with abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, and treating and managing heart failure and coronary artery disease.
Bhutan (Board Member)
Chhabi Koirala grew up in a small village in Bhutan. He received a diploma in Civil Engineering and served the Royal Government of Bhutan in the Department of Works and Housing. After the government of Bhutan established discriminatory policies for Nepali speakers, he was evicted from Bhutan in 1991. For the next 17 years, he lived in a refugee camp where he was a teacher and a social worker. He resettled to Oregon in 2008. In May 2013, he was elected as the first President of the Oregon Bhutanese Community Organization. As a community leader, he has advocated for his community and helped through counseling, outreach, in-home services and organizing cultural events. He began work at IRCO as a Workforce Specialist in 2009 and was promoted to Family Stability Program Coordinator in 2017. He is a founding member of the RISE Board.
somalia (board member)
Faiza Mohamed earned a B.A. and an M.A. in social work from Portland State University and is a mental health provider and interpreter at the Intercultural Psychiatric Program of OHSU (IPP). She and her family came as refugees to the United States from Somalia in 1996. She became interested in social work at an early age. As a Black Muslim and former refugee, she believes it is important to be involved in working for social justice for everyone. She is passionate about mental health for immigrants, refugees, and the aging population, having worked at Kaiser Primary Care@Home with older adults.
Iran (Board Member)
Javid Ghorashian is a retired ex-hi-tech executive. He was born in Iran; his parents are both ethnically Azerbaijani. He earned his B.S. in chemistry at Pars College and came to the United States to pursue an advanced degree in environmental engineering. Due to the turmoil in Iran at that time, he decided to remain in the U.S. and seek employment; however as he was unable to enter the work force in his field, he earned a second degree, in electrical engineering. He was employed at Reticon until he was recruited to Maxim Integrated Products, a start-up semiconductor company. He remained at Maxim for two decades until his retirement in 2009, having begun as a manufacturing engineer and worked his way up to Director of Operations. His career included the hiring, training and supervision of more than 150 engineers and technicians.
Cheryl earned her B.A. at Bryn Mawr College, her J.D. at Boston University School of Law, and her LL.M at the University of Washington School of Law. During forty years of law practice, Cheryl has litigated in state and federal courts and administrative tribunals; worked on public policy issues in the United States Congress; practiced as a senior assistant attorney general in the Oregon Attorney General’s office and in private practice of law representing disabled individuals, including refugees and immigrants. In June 2016, she left private practice to establish Refugee & Immigrant Services and Empowerment (RISE). She previously chaired the Oregon State Bar Association’s Disability Law Section. Member of the Oregon Bar.
Amelia earned her B.A. from Hampshire College and her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she graduated with a public interest certificate with honors. Prior to joining RISE, Amelia was an appellate level public defender at the Office of Public Defense Services in Salem, OR. She is a member of Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS), the Multnomah Bar Association (MBA), and sits on the MBA Young Lawyers Section Service to the Public Committee. She also volunteers regularly with Catholic Charities. Member of the Oregon Bar.
Julia earned her B.A. at the University of San Francisco and her J.D. at Yale Law School. Her twenty-year legal career has focused on public benefits advocacy and protecting civil rights, particularly for people with disabilities. Before joining RISE, Julia practiced law with Disability Rights Oregon, Legal Aid Services of Oregon, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a member of the Oregon bar and has served on the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Governor's Task Force on Brain Injury. She was born and raised in Portland.
Development and Operations Manager
Linda earned her M.P.H. with an emphasis in program evaluation, and her B.S. in Human Development, with a concentration in Counseling. In addition to her work with RISE, Linda works as an independent program evaluator.
Courtney earned a B.A. in Education from Western Illinois University and is a former educator. In addition to her work with RISE, Courtney volunteers at a local school to support children's educational experiences.
Special Advisers and Key Volunteers
Director of National Initiatives of the Capaces Leadership Institute; co-founder of the Willamette Valley Immigration Project, precursor to PCUN, the largest Latino union in Oregon.
President, Executive Director and co-founder of Islamic Social Services of Oregon. Former software developer, quality test manager at Boeing, Evans and Sutherland, Intel and Mentor Graphics.
Retired Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Former Branch Manager and Field Services Manager with the Oregon Department of Human Services’ Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Volunteers with RISE.
Office Manager, Thomas Coon Newton & Frost; professional administrator for legal and medical practices. Serves as a non-Board member of both the Finance Committee and the Development Committee.
Former Executive Director of the Portland Audubon Society and former Executive Director of the Columbia Gorge Commission. Former Board member of Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Oregon Environmental Council, and Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Serves as a non-Board member of the Development Committee.
Retired healthcare business executive. Former Senior Contracting Executive Regence BlueCross Blue Shield, former Chief Operating Officer at Reliant Behavioral Health. Knowledgeable re health care – business interface. Serves as a non-Board member of the Network of Culturally Competent Healthcare Providers.
Former Portland City Commissioner; U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Policy Director for Oregon Governor Kulongowski. B.A. University of Oregon, J.D., Harvard Law School.
Dr. Mike Lezak
Retired Internal Medicine physician, board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology; in practice for 30 years prior to his retirement. Dr. Lezak also worked as medical director of a hospice program in Oregon. Volunteers with RISE.
Director of the Health Resilience Program at CareOregon, formerly Refugee Resettlement Director at Catholic Charities NW. Came to the United States as a refugee from Laos. Founding Board member of RDBO.
We strongly believe in the value of working collaboratively. The organizations shown below are just some of those we have worked with.
If you are interested in having us visit your organization to talk about our programs or about disability, please contact us at 971-270-0755.