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Keynote & Presenters

Keynote Speaker

Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a Princeton University professor and Columbia University Fellow, came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with his family in 1989. In his memoir, Undocumented, and in his lectures, Peralta chronicles his journey from the rough streets of New York City to the top of his class at Princeton, offering an honest and inspiring glimpse of the American immigrant experience.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta was the 2006 Latin salutatorian of Princeton University and has been called “one of the best classicists to emerge in his generation.”

He received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University and is currently a Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University as well as a Professor of Classics at Princeton. His memoir, Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League, is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit. In his keynote talks and presentations, Peralta shares his remarkable journey and highlights the many challenges facing immigrants living in America.


Featured Presenters

After a dynamic keynote address, attendees will experience a full day of breakout sessions, led by experts on immigration, PreK-16 education, workforce development, and health and social services. 

Register Now

University of Southern Maine - Portland Campus

Abromsom Center

September 27, 2023
8 am - 3:30 pm



Priscila Bitencourt

Priscila Bitencourt is an MSW who has been working as Portland Public school McKinney Vento liaison for over two years. Priscila is originally from Brazil, speaks Portuguese, was an undocumented immigrant for 13 years and has the life experience of being a student without proper McKinney Vento identification. 


Barrett Wilkinson

Barrett Wilkinson has spent his career working in the fields of violence prevention and conflict resolution with schools and youth throughout the US and across the pond to Northern Ireland. Having worked for the Center for Preventing Hate, Seeds of Peace, the City of Portland, and currently is the Executive Director of People and Equity for Portland Public Schools, Barrett's areas of expertise include conflict resolution, prevention education, equity, and social and emotional development. Barrett has a masters in Public Policy and Management. 

Julia Hazel

Julia Hazel is a Black American, queer educator with twenty years of experience in public education. Her current role with Portland Public Schools is Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development. Julia Hazel is a recipient of the 2023 Maine Black Excellence Awards Compass Career Award, which recognizes individuals who accomplish a standout achievement in their workplace or sector.

Miyabi "Abbie" Yamamoto, PhD

Miyabi "Abbie" Yamamoto, PhD, is the Executive Director of Portland Adult Education. Born and raised in Japan, Dr. Yamamoto is an immigrant and woman of color, and has many shared experiences with PAE students and community members. She also has experience as a writer, presenter, and speaker on the topics of trauma, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and practices of diversity and inclusion.


Keita Whitten Foster

Keita Whitten Foster is a clinical social worker with more than 30 years experience in social work, art, community mental health and education. As a North American with roots in  Africa, Britannia, and the Caribbean Islands, her work is grounded in cultural healing traditions rooted in a social justice framework. Living in Harrison, Maine with family affords Keita balance and space to rejuvenate in nature, grow food, and create as an abstract multimedia expressionist. She holds weekly somatic (embodied) liberation movement and dance to inspire collective consciousness in her rural community. 

Jeanne Batalova

Dr. Jeanne Batalova is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute and Manager of the Migration Data Hub. Her research focuses on the social, linguistic, and economic impacts of immigration; mobility of the immigrant-origin population; and talent and skills policies in the United States and other countries.


Rebecca Lowenhaupt

Rebecca Lowenhaupt is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Boston College.
She leads the PIECE study exploring how educators support immigrant students in partnership with six districts including Portland. 


Edom Tesfa

Edom Tesfa is a Ph.D. candidate in education at Harvard University. Her dissertation explores how immigrant-origin adolescents make meaning of, experience, and organize around care and belonging in Portland.


Abdullahi Ahmed

Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed is an accomplished educator and dynamic leader, currently serving as the Executive Director of Secondary Education at Portland Public School. His extensive experience includes teaching physical science and assuming principal and assistant superintendent roles, leaving a lasting impact on Portland's education.

Bruce St. Thomas


Bruce St. Thomas specializes in complex loss and collective trauma and healing frameworks and has forty years of experience as a child psychologist, and art therapist.


Marie Sheffield 

Marie Sheffield is a licensed clinical counselor, art therapist and senior facilitator of Personal Leadership,
working in the field of intercultural communication, complex loss, mass trauma and collective
healing. With two decades as an intercultural team leader for the Intercultural Community Peer
Support Program at the Center for Grieving children, and an Intercultural Advisory Council,
Marie believes in the healing power of community.

More presenter information coming soon...