2018 Annual Meeting

Unifying the voice of nonprofits to leverage their power

GPNP's 2018 Annual Meeting

Everyone Counts: Creating a Culture of Civic Engagement, Beginning with the 2020 Census

November 29, 2018

Doors Open & Breakfast at 8:00 AM

Luncheon at 11:45 AM

Carnegie Music Hall

Register via Eventbrite.


National Keynote Speaker

John C. Yang, President & Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice

At Advancing Justice | AAJC, John leads the organization’s efforts to fight for civil rights and empower Asian Americans to create a more just America for all through public policy advocacy, education, and litigation. His extensive legal background enables Advancing Justice | AAJC to address systemic policies, programs, and legislative attempts to discriminate against and marginalize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and other minority communities.

John has been a leader in the Asian American and Pacific Islander and broader civic community. In 1997, John co-founded the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the direct service legal needs of Asian Pacific Americans in the D.C. metropolitan area. He served as chair of the Asian American Justice Center (former name of Advancing Justice | AAJC) after serving as treasurer of the organization and as a member of its National Advisory Council. John was president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) from 2003 to 2004, and since 1998, he has served as Co-Chair of NAPABA’s Judiciary and Executive Nominations & Appointments Committee. In that capacity, he has worked extensively with the White House and the U.S. Senate in securing the nomination and confirmation of over 20 Asian American and Pacific Islander federal judges and numerous other Senate-confirmed Presidential appointments.

John’s other leadership positions have included: Member, American Bar Association House of Delegates (2008–present; Minority Caucus Chair, 2014–16); Board Member, ABA Commission on Racial & Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession (2009–12); Advisory Committee on Pro Se Litigation for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (1998–2002); General Counsel, Organization of Chinese Americans (2000–02); Board Member, ABA Rule of Law Initiative (2013–present).

John is an experienced attorney with over two decades of policy, litigation, and corporate expertise.  He served in the Obama Administration as Senior Advisor for Trade and Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he was the principal advisor to Secretary Penny Pritzker on issues related to Asia and worked with the White House and other U.S. agencies on strategic and economics issues concerning the region.  Previously, John was a partner with a major Washington, D.C. law firm, and also worked in Shanghai, China for several years as the legal director for the Asia-Pacific operations of a U.S. Fortune 200 company.

John graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School, where he served on the George Washington Law Review and the Moot Court Board. Chambers USA recognized John as one of “America’s Leading Business Lawyers” and as a Washington, D.C. “Super Lawyer” by Law & Politics.

Regional Panel

Cara Ciminillo is the executive director at Trying Together (formerly the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children), the voice for early childhood in southwest Pennsylvania.  Cara works to ensure early care and education providers are their best for our youngest and that the system providers operate through supports their ability to focus on what matters to children’s optimal development—meaningful relationships, creativity, discovery and play.

Cara’s had a lifelong interest in bringing diverse individuals around a common goal. As a founding partner of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, Cara has helped to establish an avenue where various stakeholders work together to ensure play is valued as a critical element in the lives of all people at all ages.  Prior to her tenure at Trying Together, Cara was the project director for an evaluation and assessment collaborative at the University of Pittsburgh.  Cara also spent thirteen years directing an international service program in native communities in Australia, the Caribbean and North America.

Joyce D. Ellis gave up a 37-year dance career to devote herself full time to the LeMoyne Community Center, and is now its executive director. As a youth she had grown up "living at the playground program" that ran for the summer, and she wept at seeing the Center unused and in disrepair. Ellis embarked on a personal campaign -- selling her business, using her life savings, and amassing a cadre of support -- to bring the Center back to life.

She devised and inspired "Hands On the Community" event in September of 2007. Starting with a parade from downtown Washington to the Center, which had been decorated with children's handprint cutouts, the event drew in residents and politicians alike.

Donors, the LeMoyne Community Center board, staff and volunteers -- including a group of bikers and local children -- restored the Center to a usable condition. Ellis initiated numerous year-round programs for students who flock to the Center from four surrounding school districts. Results of her efforts have been twofold, she says. "I came to bring change to the Center, and became changed forever because of the Center."

Phil Koch has been working to strengthen communities for over 15 years.  He started his career as an elementary and middle school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  In 2005, Phil left the classroom and began working in the non-profit sector as the Pittsburgh Director for MGR Youth Empowerment, a direct service non-profit focused on youth development.  As the National Executive Director, Phil grew the organization to five metropolitan cities, impacting over 50,000 youth during his tenure.

Currently, Phil serves as the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County whose mission is to encourage local residents to become philanthropists, to provide grants that support a wide variety of non-profit organizations, and serve as a community leader.  Phil obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Wittenberg University and his Master’s Degree in Professional Leadership and Non-Profit Management from Carlow University.

Rabbi Ron Symons is well known in the local Jewish community, having served as Rabbi of Temple Sinai where he directed the Midrash Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning and the Tikkun Olam Center for Jewish Social Justice since 2008.

“I am passionate about Jewish living and Jewish community, committed to engaging and meaningful experiences that lead to intellectually, culturally, spiritually and socially responsible Jewish living,” Rabbi Symons said.

He describes himself as “a student of effective learning,” striving for educational excellence across the ages – from telling stories with his 4-foot tall puppet Sheli to young families to kneading challah dough with elementary school students, to taking a Jewish road trip with teens and engaging in text-based meaningful conversations with adults.

Symons is a regular faculty member of the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to Temple Sinai, he served as Rabbi/Education Director of Larchmont Temple, New York, and as head of Jewish Studies faculties at Cohen Hillel Academy and the Rashi School in Massachusetts. He served the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa, Israel, and as Regional Educator for the Union for Reform Judaism.

He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany and was ordained by Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He holds a Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature from HUC-JIR and a Master of Science in Educational Administration and Supervision from Pace University. He is a graduate of the Day School Leadership Training Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the AviChai Foundation. He is trained as a community organizer, is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh and is a Rabbi Balfour Brickner Rabbinic Fellow of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Symons and his wife, Rabbi Barbara Symons of Temple David, Monroeville, are the proud parents of Aviva, Ilana and Micah.


Betty Cruz is the Founder of the Change Agency and Program Director of All for All. Betty developed citywide initiatives for Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, managed major accounts for a national nonprofit dedicated to building playgrounds across the U.S., and supported public relations for global brands representing a wide range of industries. She has extensive experience in community outreach, communications, partnership-building, and program management – spanning nearly 20 years.

Tracey Armant began her career as an English teacher at Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Maryland. She earned a Masters of Arts Degree in Public Administration from the Woodrow Wilson School and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. She served on faculty in the College of Education at Ohio University and as an instructor at the University of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, Tracey is a Program Associate with the Grable Foundation. She also serves as Chair of the Board of A+ Schools. Tracey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children.



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