Staff

Chavi Khanna Koneru (she, her)
Executive Director, Chavi@ncaatogether.org

Chavi Khanna Koneru is co-founder and Executive Director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT). Koneru moved to North Carolina in 1989 and has spent the majority of her life living in the state, including attending college and law school locally at the University of North Carolina. This has allowed her to gain a deep, personal understanding of what it means to be Asian American in the South. Additionally, her legal background in voting rights law has given her the opportunity to interpret and enforce laws impacting the Asian American community, including during her time in the Voting Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she focused on language access for Asian American voters.

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Sarah Yopp (she, her)
Operations Director, Sarah@ncaatogether.org

Sarah’s a native of eastern North Carolina where she studied Fine Arts at East Carolina University. Her background focuses on hospitality management and consulting, which is rooted in her desire to serve others. Sarah’s love and compassion for others drive her heart for social justice. Sarah enjoys spending her time painting, experimenting with new recipes, and collecting books she’ll never read.

Jimmy Patel-Nguyen (he, him)
Communications Director, Jimmy@ncaatogether.org

Jimmy was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and attended NC State University before starting his marketing career. He specialized in digital communications at Under Armour and the NC Museum of Art before joining local creative agencies where he served clients like Crocs, Sherwin-Williams, UNC Health, and UNC School of Medicine. Moved by candid conversations with his parents about their journey as Vietnamese refugees, Jimmy launched an international storytelling project to equip the refugee community to record their own experiences. This initiative showed Jimmy the transformative power of conversation to bridge generational gaps and to uplift underrepresented histories. In his free time, you can find Jimmy and his wife chasing around their two young boys and sweet dog.

Phian Tran (they, them)
Head of Community Engagement, Phian@ncaatogether.org

Phian is an NC State alum from Raleigh with a background in community engagement. As an event curator, they specialize in combining efforts of young creatives, activists, and local organizations to propel collaborative initiatives for justice and equity. In their free time, they like to play music and go to concerts.

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Shruti Parikh (she, her)
Head of Voter Engagement, Shruti@ncaatogether.org

Shruti was born in India, but immigrated to the US at a young age and grew up in the Midwest. She attended the University of Michigan, where she studied Mathematics and Art History and received her MS in Management from NC State. She has been an active volunteer in the Triangle community since moving to North Carolina in 1993. After the 2016 election, Shruti was inspired to become more involved in voter outreach and engagement specifically in the Asian community. As a mother of three young adults, Shruti enjoys cooking and sharing Indian food and culture.

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Gerry Lor (he, they)
Community Engagement Manager, Gerry@ncaatogether.org

Gerry grew up in Salisbury, NC, and graduated from UNC Wilmington with a BA in International Studies and Sociology. He started his advocacy and community engagement work in 2017 when he got involved in the Seeding Change National Fellowship in which he was able to work with the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC). His involvement with SEAC has allowed him to be engaged with Southeast Asian American communities across North Carolina to support voter outreach, citizenship workshops, and youth mentorship. He hopes to use his outreach and advocacy experience to better connect with the AAPI community at large in North Carolina. When he is not working or volunteering, Gerry enjoys hiking, listening to podcasts, taking care of his indoor plants, and karaoke.

Jessie Lutz
Youth Engagement Manager, Jessie@ncaatogether.org

Jessie is a Raleigh local, Tar Heel, and an educator at heart. She studied cultural studies at UNC Chapel Hill with a focus on how culture shapes gender, race, and identity. Jessie’s experience as a Chinese transracial adoptee has fundamentally shaped her motivation in fighting for equity and inclusion in her home state of North Carolina. With four years in K-12 education, Jessie is immensely proud to have served students and their families and looks forward to continuing to empower Asian American youth at NCAAT. Jessie likes cooking, swimming, learning Mandarin and Spanish, watching Tiktok, and traveling.

Dan Tews (he, him)
Field Coordinator, Dan@ncaatogether.org

As Field Coordinator at NCAAT, Dan helps with voter registration and engagement efforts drawing on his experience in grassroots fieldwork. He has worked for over a decade as an activist for social justice and environmental causes, with a special passion for working with those who are disenfranchised and historically underrepresented politically. He studied English Literature at The College of New Jersey. He lives in Raleigh with his rescue dog, Percy.

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Vicky Cheng (she, her)
Development and Administrative Coordinator, Vicky@ncaatogether.org

Vicky was born in Taiwan, raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and graduated from Furman University (Greenville, SC) with a degree in English. She spent several years teaching courses and pursuing graduate studies in Victorian literature, women’s work, and theorizing bodies. While at Syracuse University, she was inspired to engage with organizing efforts for mental health awareness and student advocacy. After electing to leave the university space, she returned to North Carolina with a renewed interest in writing and actively working for social justice in the AAPI community. In her free time, she can be found exploring Raleigh’s art scene or walking her cat.
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Giselle Pagunuran (she, her)
Digital Communications Coordinator, Giselle@ncaatogether.org

Giselle grew up in Concord, NC, and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied Journalism and Media with a double major in Communication Studies. After being involved with various Asian American campus organizations, she grew her desire to connect with and serve her community. She hopes to use her media production experience to amplify AAPI stories and uplift diverse voices. In her free time, she likes playing music, going to concerts, journaling, and doing her best to keep her house plants alive.
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MK Alova (they, she)
Youth Engagement Coordinator, mk@ncaatogether.org

MK is a Raleigh local who attended UNC-Greensboro as a nursing major and Lloyd International Honors College student. While at UNCG, they served on the school’s Filipino American Student Association executive board where they engaged students and Triad residents alike in Filipino and Filipino American culture and history. Through college youth engagement as well as serving as a panelist and facilitating discussions regarding BIPOC and AAPI communities, MK became inspired to work with Asian American youth back in Raleigh in hopes of sparking the want to self-advocate for their communities. You can catch MK playing music, watching movies and shows, practicing Korean with friends, or adding ideas to their fun creative writing memo.