Meet the AsylumConnect Team 

Our Staff 

Kt .jpg

Katie Sgarro, Co-founder and Co-director

Katie graduated cum laude with distinction in Health and Societies from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2015. She is an incoming student at the Kellogg School of Management

Katie is a social entrepreneur, writer, and advocate for global LGBTQ rights. She has represented AsylumConnect at influential platforms including the United Nations, the Forbes Under 30 Summit, Google New York, the Business Today (BT) International Conference, Philadelphia's William Way LGBT Community Center, New York University (NYU), and the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). She has been published and featured in The Advocate, The Huffington PostOut Magazine, Elite Daily, Philadelphia MagazinePhiladelphia Gay News,, and others.

As the winner of the 2015 Millennium Campus Conference (MCC15) Millennium Peace Prize (a prize celebrating youth activism advancing cultures of peace), Katie launched a global campaign for AsylumConnect in front of over 450 people at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. For her work on AsylumConnect, she was recently selected as a Finalist for the Forbes 2016 30 Under 30 List ("Social Entrepreneurs" category) and a Semi-Finalist for the 2016 Echoing Green Global Fellowship

Katie is extremely excited to be a Co-founder and Co-director of AsylumConnect. Moving forward, she hopes to grow AsylumConnect's impact and to continue to raise awareness for the approximately 300,000 LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. 

Contact her at

Sayid (Sy) Abdullaev, Co-founder and Co-director

Sayid is a global youth human rights advocate, award winning speaker, and social entrepreneur. Overcoming poverty and social injustice, he founded Youth for Peace at age 10, a platform to increase participation of young people in the peace-building process. He has served as an international youth trainer for Youth Volunteer Organization Leadership, human rights facilitator for UNESCO – Chair, youth expert for peace keeping missions, mentor for global youth leadership programs, and OXFAM International youth representative. Sayid has been named a Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader, Hesselbein Global Youth Leader, World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Every Day Young Hero, CSI’s outstanding senator, Point Scholar, Vision Scholar, and was recognized by President Clinton, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Point of Lights, UNESCO, MCW, Dr. Jane Goodall and others. This year, he was named as an Architect of the Future, a recognition that is given to 10 exceptional and compassionate young people who dedicate their lives to a higher mission by finding outstanding and innovative solutions for pressing problems. 

Sayid has conducted projects in over 20 countries and currently serves as URI’s Youth representative to the United Nations. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Venture Management Fellowship and a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where he studied political science. His expertise includes: human rights, refugee resettlement, youth involvement, MDGs, LGBTQ, collective intelligence, and capacity building. He is pursuing a career at the nexus of social entrepreneurship, social justice, technology, and sustainable development.

Sayid looks forward to using his own personal experiences to amplify the vision of AsylumConnect as a Co-founder and Co-director.

Contact him at

Sean Buckley, Chief financial officer (CFO)

After spending a year at the University of Notre Dame, Sean transferred to the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and is pursuing a degree in Finance with a minor in Government. At Georgetown, Sean is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi (a national co-ed business fraternity) and serves as a transfer peer advisor. As a member of the leadership committee of Freedom to Marry’s Young Conservatives initiative, Sean advocated for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage across the country. He has been published and commented in pieces in The Daily Beast, POLITICO, Yahoo NewsThe Advocate, and NewsMax.

He hopes to continue to advocate for LGBT rights in the U.S. and across the globe. As Chief Financial Officer, Sean will contribute to the overall financial growth of AsylumConnect while overseeing the budget and cash flow.

Contact him at

Emma biegacki, DIRECTOR OF catalog

Emma is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania College of Arts and Sciences, where she studied public health. Born and raised in New York, she has since relocated to Philadelphia to work full time, predominately with uninsured HIV/AIDS populations. Her prior experience assisting, designing, and implementing a range of public health initiatives has taken her around the world, from South America, to Africa, to Asia, and back. She has worked on programs serving children, adolescents, and adults, in institutional, non-profit, and community settings. Select focus areas have included but are not limited to developmental health, sexual health, mental health, bioethics and end-of-life care, disaster and epidemic response, and child abuse and neglect. While studying at Penn, Emma served as co-president of GlobeMed, a student-run global health nonprofit, for the 2014-15 academic year. She also sat on the boards of the Penn International Development Society and Undergraduate Anthropology Society, and belonged to the Alpha Phi Omega co-ed service fraternity. Her senior honors thesis addressed new ways of harnessing communications structures for efficient and effective disaster relief. In her senior year, she also completed an independent study on health as a pathway to political empowerment, for which she travelled to Kolkata, India to perform onsite research.

As a public health professional, Emma is acutely aware of how difficult it can be to navigate the public and private systems that provide us with the building blocks of stability – documentation, health, education, etc. This is especially true for vulnerable populations who are under-resourced, under-recognized, and uninformed. In her role with AsylumConnect, Emma hopes to bring more clarity and ease to these difficult processes and to raise awareness about the plight of LGBTQ asylees. As Director of Catalog, Emma oversees the development and management of the AsylumConnect resource catalog and communicates with users to ensure the highest quality service.

Contact her at

Marie-Esther Buh, volunteer Coordinator

Marie is a student at Essex County College (ECC) Newark, NJ. At ECC, she is the Program Coordinator of the International Student Society (ISS) club, the Director of Events for Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), and the Senator of Grievance for her Student Government Association (SGA). She stays active by working for the Recruitment Office in her school and tutoring when needed. Marie who used to be a Psychology major is now an International Relations and Global Affairs/Romance Language major. She seeks to make a difference where no one expected or thought possible. 

Marie met Katie Sgarro at the Millennium Campus Conference where she first heard of AsylumConnect. As an active advocate for the LGBTQ community, Marie was hooked to be a part of this growing organization. She is best known for being very awkward and childish but yet so passionate with issues concerning inequality. Marie, aspires to be just like her idol – Nelson Mandela who though shut from the world became the biggest #sidekick known in history. 

In the future, she hopes to work for NGO’s promoting equality, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and so on. As the University Chapter Coordinator, Marie hopes to bridge the gap between the board members and the chapters. She envisions a community where communication is key to success.  

Contact her at

Matthew Keating, Director of partner relations

Matthew is a recent high school graduate from the Washington, D.C. area. For the past two years, Matthew has served as the Director of American Programs for an United Nations affiliated NGO, The International Youth Council. Through his work at IYC, Matthew promotes youth policy and youth voices within the UN infrastructure. Matthew recently finished serving as the 2014-2015 National Director of High School Programs for the Young Democrats of America, where he planned programming, developed trainings, and connected students to political organizations and opportunities all over the country. Matthew occasionally writes for The Huffington Post on millennial issues, and has spoken and participated in several international forums, including the World Forum for Democracy, European Youth Forum, and the Nexus Global Congressional Summit, among others, working to encourage social entrepreneurship and political action among young people.

In the future, Matthew hopes to pursue an education and career in International Relations and Human Rights. As Director of Partner Relations, Matthew will focus on connecting relevant external organizations to promote, support, and expand the work of AsylumConnect.

Contact him at

Alex lucci, secretary

Alex recently completed the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health program at the University of Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, Alex volunteered at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and at the Mazzoni Center's Washington West Project. He is a graduate of Boston College, where he stage managed Twelfth Night and Into the Woods, as well as directed Lysistrata. Alex received the Fr. Joseph M. Larkin, S.J. Award for Theatre in 2012. After graduating college, he worked as a stage manager for the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

He hopes to combine his interests in LGBTQ health and social justice to improve the welfare of LGBTQ asylum seekers. As Secretary, he fosters communication among the Board and tracks the growth and activities of AsylumConnect.

Contact him at


Tiff Lu, Director of User Experience and Software Development

Tiff is an interdisciplinary designer and engineer interested in the intersection of STEM, art and social justice. Though her heart belongs to California, she has found a way to embrace the East Coast hustle. Recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Biology and Computer Science, her time at Penn bridged multiple academic spheres such as environmental sustainability, materials science, microbiology, product design and user experience. Tiff hopes to combine her passions by pursuing a career in integrative design research.

A former science journalist in the making, Tiff has designed, edited and contributed to a wide range of web and print publications, from travel magazines to QPOC literary magazines. While studying at Penn, she sat on the campus boards of national co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, global feminism movement V-Day and LGBTQIA pride week QPenn. She was also a member of Carriage Senior Society, Penn's LGBTQIA and ally honor society, and Penn Haven Housing Co-op, a consensus-driven living community promoting social justice and environmental sustainability.

In designing and developing AsylumConnect's web and mobile presence, Tiff recognizes the importance of user-centric research in crafting a solution tailored to community needs. Beauty is delightful, but usability and accessibility are key. Having written her undergraduate thesis on designing sustainable, socially impactful technology solutions for disadvantaged communities, Tiff will put theory into practice by optimizing the AsylumConnect product experience. 

As someone whose ideal world invokes knowledge dissemination and radical inclusivity, Tiff is thrilled to help build AsylumConnect's vision.

Contact her at


Rose is a recent graduate of Colby College in Waterville, Maine. As an undergrad, she studied Philosophy and Russian, focusing primarily on queer phenomenology and questions of identity. She researched silent oppressions and the historical and cultural schema surrounding the manifestation of queer identities. Currently, Rose is an Educator for the Cape Ann Whale Watch in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her work focuses on intersectionality and environmental issues, including humpback whale research and education.

As the Social Media Manager, Rose will oversee AsylumConnect's media accounts (including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles). She especially hopes to expose those LGBTQ issues that are too often overlooked. Check AsylumConnect's Facebook and Twitter feeds for articles, newsletters and posts concerning LGBTQ orientations around the world and asylum-related issues. 

Contact her at

Our Associates 


Aly is a current senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in mathematics. In addition to math, Aly is passionate about languages and foreign cultures, and she studied abroad for a semester at Peking University in Beijing, China to further her acquisition of Chinese. She is also a self-proclaimed nerd who loves reading fantasy and sci-fi, playing video games, and learning about all things related to science and technology.

Before attending Penn, Aly was in the Honors Program at Montgomery County Community College, where she enrolled as a full-time student when she was only 16. While at MCCC, she was an AmeriCorps Scholar in Service and completed over 500 hours of service in one year. She also started a community service club on the campus which had over 30 members, completed over 2,000 hours of community service, and raised over $6,000 for causes such as homelessness and poverty. For her commitment to service, she was awarded the President’s Distinguished Service Award.

Aly is excited to join the AsylumConnect team and help raise awareness of the unique issues faced by LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. As AsylumConnect’s Webmaster, Aly hopes to ensure that AsylumConnect’s website and catalog are always up and running without errors. She believes it is extremely important for LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. to have access to a centralized catalog of resources and for potential supporters to be able to visit our site and quickly learn about our cause.