Leadership Team

Board of Directors

  • Tung Bach Ly, Interim Chairman
  • Minh Nguyen, Head Board Member
  • Tom Costanza, Board Member
  • Tu Hoang, Board Member
  • Mimi-Cristien Nguyen, Board Member
  • Joel Waltzer, Board Member
  • Diana Pei Wu, Ph.D., Board Member

Minh Nguyen

Founder and Executive Director


Minh Nguyen is the Founder and Executive Director of VAYLA New Orleans, Board Member of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadian, Second Vice Chair of the Asian Pacific American Society of New Orleans, and 2013 Inaugural Fellow of the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute. Since 2006, Minh has dedicated his life to building a new kind of home for New Orleanians, one that honors that right and power of local residents, young and old, to determine the future of their own neighborhoods. As the Executive Director of VAYLA, Minh has dedicated his work to creating space and leveraging resources to build the capacity of youth, their families, and supporting community members to lead and influence policies, practices and procedures within the public education and health sectors. Through his leadership, Minh has successfully brought together African-American, Vietnamese, Latino and Caucasian community members to take collective action and determine and the future outcomes of their community. His long-term advocacy and organizing efforts have invigorated political energy of New Orleanians through uniting residents under the common goals of taking local control over their schools and city governance structures.

Minh graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a double major in management and marketing. His leadership as a student includes his services as the External Vice President of the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Association (UNAVSA) and the Executive Director of the UNAVSA Fourth Annual North American Vietnamese Student Conference.

Erica Buher

Program Director


Erica Buher joined VAYLA in October 2012 as the Youth Development Coordinator. Prior to this, Erica worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate, focusing on foreign relations, homeland security, and defense. Erica became passionate about social justice as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in African Studies and Political Science. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for ATRAVES, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Barrio Camilo Ortega, an impoverished neighborhood in Managua, Nicaragua.

In this capacity, she supports the Margaret Xuan Dung Fellowship program and VAYLA’s Organizing Training Institute.

Erica’s other passions include Paulo Freire, baked goods, and puppies.

Huong Nguyen

Media and Social Director


Huong Nguyen became a member of VAYLA New Orleans in 2006 and became a staff in 2008. She was born and raised in New Orleans East, Louisiana. She graduated from the University of New Orleans in May 2012, where she majored in Business Marketing.

She is the Founder and Program Coordinator of the Young Womyn’s Leadership Program (YWLP), which seeks to provide a safe space for young womyn that supports the development of healthy coping skills, enhanced self esteem and increases their intellectual, civic, and social skills. She initiated the first young womyn’s flag football team in New Orleans East. At VAYLA, Huong is also responsible for VAYLA’s cultural programming, which sustains VAYLA’s mission of cultural enrichment and serves as a mechanism to recruit new members and develop them as leaders. The coordinator also collaborates with the Administrative Director on VAYLA’s payroll and financial management.

Huong was awarded the 2009 Service Leader/Youth Ally Change Maker Award from the Gulf South Youth Action Corps and she was also the 2nd Runner Up in the 2009 ASPIRE Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. From VAYLA, she received the ‘Most Valuable Player – Womyn’s Flag Football Award’ in July 2009 and the ‘Seeds of Hope Award’ in May 2011.

Huong enjoys sharing her food favorites, pomegranates and homemade kale chips, with the young people.

Mars Nguyen

Reproductive Justice Organizer


Mars joined VAYLA as a member in 2012 and became a youth staff in 2015. He was born in Fountain Valley, California but was raised in New Orleans East. He is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Orleans.

Mars is a Founder and the Lead Organizer of Ride to Success (RTS), VAYLA’s transportation campaign, which seeks to make the RTA, New Orleans public transit system, more reliable, safe, more efficient, and more accessible. He also works on General Meetings, which makes sure that the members of VAYLA stayed informed of events going on in VAYLA and let the members have a voice in the decision making process. He also supports VAYLA-NO’s Environmental Justice Campaign, Academic Support, Family Circle, and Reproductive Justice Program.

His other interests are playing guitar/piano, breaking/break dancing, playing games, reading books and manga, and watching anime.

Karina Fortanel

Media Coordinator


Karina was born in South Central Florida and grew up primarily in New Orleans East. She graduated from the International High School of New Orleans in 2015 as an International Baccalaureate Programme student. She has been a part of VAYLA for almost 5 years now and hopes to continue being part of VAYLA’s family for many more years to come. Previously she was a youth leader but has recently gained the position of Media Coordinator.

Karina loves dogs.

Dynisha Hugle

Civic Engagment Coordinator


coming soon

Nicky Cao

LGBTQ Coordinator


coming soon