Our Team

Executive Director- Yussuf Issa

Yussuf has 6 years of experience in the private sector and 11 years of leadership, advocacy, outreach, and management experience in the public and nonprofit sectors of the U.S.and Canada. He directs the overall activities of the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee, human resources, grant and budget management, provision of social services, community relations and fundraising. Yussuf is fluent in English and Somali and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Windsor.

Refugee Integration Program

Director of Integration Programs- Sam Lute

Sam Lute is a six-year U.S. Army veteran and has deployed twice to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division. His experiences in Afghanistan, as an aviation crew member in the Pech and Korengal valleys, inspire him to work with displaced, exploited, and vulnerable peoples from around the globe and to help them find peace here in the United States. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in international affairs at Middle Tennessee State University, with a focus in globalization, international development, and Arabic language.

Community Navigator- Khadra Yusur

Khadra Yusur has been with CRIT since July 2014. She previously worked with CRIT and also the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute as an interpreter. Khadra began volunteering with CRIT in 2006, with CRIT’s afterschool program then known as the Somali Student Association of Tennessee. Khadra is a native Somali. She came to the U.S. in 2000 from Mogadishu, Somalia, and is excited to give back to her community, especially those who really need the help. She has a Bachelor of Science in Health and a Masters degree in Public Health.

Agricultural Program

Director of Agricultural Programs-Lauren Bailey

Lauren is a TN native and returned to Middle TN over three years ago. Since her return, she has been blessed to work in community gardens and on small organic farms in Nashville. She believes in sharing meals, growing food and sharing laughter.

Refugee Elders Program (REP)

Director of Refugee Elders’ Program- Ram Chamlagai

Ram has spent his life in three different countries. He was born in Bhutan, raised and attended high school in Nepal, and he works and goes to college in Nashville. He has worked as a Nepali interpreter for the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute and Family and Children’s Services for several years and is currently working on his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Ram joined the CRIT team in July 2013 as a Community Navigator.


Refugee and Immigrant Students Empowered (RISE) Program

R.I.S.E. Program Director- Joseph Clark

Originally from Michigan, Joseph moved to Tennessee to pursue a master’s degree in Health and Human Performance, focusing on Community and Public Health, from Austin Peay State University.  Although he now lives in SEC country, Joseph will always be a Michigan State Spartan - Go Green!  Joseph has 6 years of youth development experience and is passionate about creating engaging programs and opportunities for Nashville’s at-risk youth.  Joseph strives to level the playing field in education and social emotional development, and works to make sure all children are given the best chance possible to succeed.

Immigration Services

Immigration Services Director- Dennis Bailey

ESL Instructors

Catherine Pearson

After getting her TESL certificate from the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute (TFLI) in 2004, Catherine taught English in Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. She then earned her master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism and has written for publications and nonprofit organizations around the world about topics such as refugee resettlement, Habitat for Humanity’s work in Mozambique and opportunities to volunteer abroad. In 2012 she returned to Nashville and began teaching at CRIT in 2013.

Nancy Weaver

Nancy serves as an ESL instructor for two CRIT classes that are held off-site. She discovered her love for teaching ESL in 1994 and has enjoyed working with refugees and immigrants in the Nashville area ever since. She received a B.A. in Social Work from Oral Roberts University and a TESL certification from Tennessee Foreign Language Institute.

Zac Fahmi

Daniel Spires