Staff and Board of directors
Leonard Bagalwa – Founder and Executive Director. A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Leonard completed his undergraduate Public and Community Health Education at Utah Valley University. He brings a very global background, having lived in more than five countries around the world. He has over 5 years of experience working with refugees in Utah and has served on the boards of multiple non-profit organizations for 2 years. Leonard lived in refugee camps in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, for more than a year. He was then resettled to refugee camps in Zimbabwe and stayed there for more than 2 years before coming to the United States. Leonard is the founder and former president of UVU African Club, a club that transformed the perception of Africa in the eyes of the local community and state of Utah. With a mission to promote African culture in America, UVU African club helped African students gain better understanding of American culture through education. As founder and Executive Director of Utah Community & Refugee Partnership Center, Leonard is committed to maximizing the positive impact he can make in the world to bless many individuals. He believes that his personal experiences and the work he does can empower people and transform lives.
Steve Gentry – Board President. Steve has served on UCRPC’s Board of Directors since 2017. Like many volunteers, he felt moved to reach out to help those with problems far greater than his own. This is his first experience working with refugees, and he enjoys joining volunteers with a similar vision, desires to serve, and hopes of changing lives for the better.
Steve was raised in Utah and grew up a lot during his mission to Venezuela. He received his BS in Psychology from BYU and his MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Louisville. He is the Executive and Clinical Director of an outpatient counseling clinic in American Fork, which he founded in 1995. As a Child & Family Psychologist, he helps children, adults, couples, and families find solutions to their problems. He finds that the biggest challenge he faces during the work day is getting up out of his chair at the end of a session.
Steve is married to Marinda (Durrant) and they have four children and seven grandchildren. He enjoys traveling, shopping for antiques with his wife, playing the piano and organ, and playing chess. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in several BYU sports.
Andrew May – Board Vice President Andrew May has a passion for helping refugees, immigrants, and those of foreign culture that started from his family upbringing. From a young age, his family was involved in bringing over one hundred exchange students to the United States. Having lived in Argentina with his bilingual family, visited multiple continents and served as an LDS missionary in the melting pot of Washington D.C., Andrew has seen the strength of diversity and goodness of people regardless of language, culture, or race. Andrew worked for five years as a bilingual (Spanish) certified Utah driving instructor where he was able to help refugees and immigrants through the challenges of obtaining driving privileges in Utah.
Andrew currently works as the director of basketball operations for Brigham Young University men’s basketball. Before he came to BYU, he worked at Salt Lake Community College. There he served as an assistant men’s basketball coach and mentored foreign athletes in the assimilation to the culture of the U.S. Andrew was also as an adjunct faculty instructor in the Lifetime Activity Department at SLCC where he was able to interact with first-generation refugees and immigrants to aid them in their dreams for educational and societal advancement. Andrew’s familiarity with academia, administration, and operations, coupled with his gratitude for those who have helped him in his times of need, contribute to the success of the Utah Community & Refugee Partnership Center.
May has been married for nine years to his wife, Marissa, who was born and raised in the Netherlands. They have five children, Benson, Ella, Karsten, Luk,e and Will. May received his master’s & bachelor’s degrees from Brigham Young University in Exercise Science.
Vanessa Masanka – Board Director, Vanessa is a former refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because of war in her native country, Vanessa left Congo at age of ten and move to Uganda Refugee Camp . Her family lived in Uganda for four years before they were resettled by Catholic Community Service to the United States. Now she is a Pre Engineering student at Utah Valley University and hopes to pursue architecture in the future. Before Attending Utah Valley University, Vanessa is a former Miss Africa Utah. Vanessa went and graduated from Olympus High School. In her spare time, Vanessa likes to volunteer and in the past she volunteered with refugees Organization in Salt Lake City. Being once a refugee, Vanessa loves helping others, because she knows what refugees pass through in their daily lives. Working with refugees and getting to know different cultures from around the world gives her joy and peace of mind. Vanessa was relocated from Salt Lake County by the same organization now working with, Utah Community and Refugee Partnership Center as Board Director.
Seth Bybee – Grant Writing Seth Bybee lives in Lehi, UT with his wife and seven children. He has traveled to every continent (except for Antarctica) several times and has lived abroad extensively. He has seen the “refugee’s plight” up close while living in Southern France as a missionary and while researching throughout Asia and Africa. He is passionate about helping refugees gain an education so that they can help themselves get a foothold in the US.
Seth teaches in the biology department at BYU and has a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Florida and a BS in Conservation Biology from Brigham Young University. His research focuses on the evolution and diversification of dragonflies and fireflies and their visual systems. He is also interested in Biological Science Education. He has successfully received more than $2 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and several other sources to support his research. He hopes to bring his skills in grant writing to raise funds for refugees in Utah Valley and beyond.
Severin Ngoma – Board Director, Severin was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to the United States six year ago. He is married with 3 children. Severin graduated with a Bachelors degree in Economics with an emphasis in Business (2005), and a Master of Public Health (MPH) with an emphasis in Economics Health both from the University of Kinshasa (2008), and finally got his Master of Business and Administration (MBA) in August 2017 from Utah Valley University.
Severin has experience business management and worked as HIV Project Manager with the UNDP prior to being a Senior Engineer for Micros Opera, with Oracle USA. He developed great competencies and performances with CEI DR Congo where he practiced his management skills as a Provincial Operation Controller Manager for many years.
With both professional and personal experiences, Severin is committed to help others in many ways. As a hobby, Severin likes reading, watching the NBA basketball games and everything related to computing and streaming media online.
Howard C. Bybee, MA – Board Director, Howard was born and raised in Oakland, California, lived in Utah since 1982. Howard is father of six children, 23 grandchildren. Howard served his LDS Mission in France and Africa. Howard has a MA French, MS Anthropology/Archaeology, MA Library and Information Science. Howard is Retired Librarian – BYU Harold B. Lee Library. Howard is collector of beautiful objects from the natural world and orchid cultivator.
Desire Bamba Rukongeza – Board Director, Desire is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Desi has lived and worked with refugees in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa. Desi speaks French, Swahili, Lingala, and understands Zulu and Xhosa. These international, multicultural and personal experiences help understand what type of help meet the immediate and long term needs of refugees from the moment they arrive in a new country through the journey of self-sufficiency. Desi holds a Bachelor degree in Global and Community Health from George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia). Desi works for the Virginia Department of Health. Desi is married and is a father of four children.
Phil Malula – Program Director, Phil provides strategy and international development management experience, having worked with nonprofits and businesses in many African countries. He has extensive experience in projects origination and capital searching. Mr. Malula is the founder of AllOnePeople, a 501-c3 organization, a Utah non profit dedicated in “Lifting Educating and Inspiring Africa’s Youth”.
Anna Cvetcko – Board Secretary. Anna was inspired to join Utah Community and Refugee Partnership Center early 2017 after participating in political movements to encourage legislation for more refugee friendly policies. She is currently a Sophomore at Brigham Young University, studying economics and mathematics. Anna works in research and data analytics for the economics department. Anna started volunteering with UCRPC as Outreach and Housing Coordinator and now working as Board Secretary. Anna is committed to serve others in any way.