Upstate International thrives on making connections—reaching out to anyone interested in international culture, global issues and education, and fostering the dynamic exchange of ideas. UI Ambassadors are passionate about what Upstate International has to offer. They welcome, support, and celebrate the international diversity that makes this community such a vibrant place.

An Ambassador can help you get connected to programs, groups, and activities that will facilitate a deeper connection with other Upstate residents and cultures. Read the bios below to become acquainted with each of our UI Ambassadors. Let their passion for the world ignite yours.

Contact an Ambassador to learn about his or her experiences with Upstate International and how you can benefit through participation.

Francisco Sanchez

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Meet Francisco

Francisco is a native of Cali, Colombia. He first came to The United States as an exchange student at the age of seventeen, and subsequently put himself through college graduating from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green,OH with a BBA in 1977 and thereafter, from The University of Toledo, Toledo, OH with an MBA in 1978. He started a career in International Banking with The Northern Trust Bank, Chicago, IL and in 1982 was sent abroad by The First National Bank of Chicago first to Venezuela as Assistant Representative, followed by Panama as Vice President in charge of the Andean Group, and later to Australia as Marketing Director of First Chicago Australia Limited in Sydney, Australia. Upon his return from overseas in 1991, Francisco was offered a job with S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., Racine, WI as Treasury Manager for Latin America and Asia Pacific where he later became Assistant Treasurer. In 1999, Francisco was promoted to Vice President Corporate Treasurer of JohnsonDiversey, Inc., Sturtevant, WI where he worked until 2005 before returning to banking as Vice President-Middle Market with JP Morgan Chase Bank, Milwaukee, WI.

After twenty-four years in Wisconsin, Francisco retired in 2013 and moved to Greenville, SC in 2016 with his Australian wife Alix. They have three grown and successful children. Francisco has volunteered with a number of organizations including as Chairman of the United Way of Racine County for four years, and a Board member of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation, The Gateway Technical College Foundation, The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, and a member of the Hispanic Business and Professional Association.

Francisco is now becoming involved with the Greenville community and in November 2017 was elected Board member and Treasurer of the Braydon Homeowners Association at Hollingsworth Park; a member of the Hispanic Alliance Financial Stability Team; and a member of the Verdae-YMCA Membership Committee. He also enjoys volunteering with Upstate International where he facilitates Spanish conversation classes. Francisco is a U.S. citizen and besides community involvement, his other interests include hiking, reading, travelling, and soccer.

Carmen Gallagher

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Meet Carmen

Carmen moved to the United States 24 years ago from Monterrey, Mexico after meeting and marrying her American husband while he was working there in Mexico.

After living in several states, they and their two children made Greenville their home 11 years ago.  She became a member of Upstate International and began teaching the first Spanish class offered at the organization.  Carmen then became a relocation ambassador, helping families that moved to Greenville attain their licenses, Social security cards, etc.

Since then, she has been heavily involved in the International Women’s Club (IWC) and has found an amazing outlet for her passion of meeting the needs of those who move to the Upstate from all over the world.

She’s very involved in the Spanish community and is a current member of the AHAM (Hispanic American Womens Associaton) executive committee and works with several companies in the Upstate as a Spanish interpreter.

Mapitso Rivera

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Meet Mapitso

Mapitso Molebatsi Rivera was born and raised in South Africa where she worked as a social worker and later worked with the South African Government as a training coordinator to bridge the gap between community needs and government resources. She later moved to the United States to pursue her Masters in Divinity. Together with her husband as ordained Pastors they conduct marriage and couples counseling, pre-marital, divorce and grief counseling as well as mission work. She is the owner of Crossing Over Tourism and House of Arbitrage. She is also the President of the South African Chamber of Commerce in America, SC Chapter to encourage, facilitate and expand business, trade, tourism and investment opportunities between South Africa and the United States while promoting sustainable economic growth and job creation. She also serves on the board of International Palm Oil and Bio Diesel. Her passion is children and her desire is to make a difference in the lives of the children around the world. She is the Director of the Tutu Desk Campaign America, to address the shortage of school desks for children in Sub Sahara Africa and around the world.

Monique Glass

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Meet Monique

In 1998, Jerry Gibbins and Kip Seiber approached me, as president of the local Alliance Française chapter, to join them in creating an International Association for the Upstate. They needed existing international organizations to provide a base upon which further growth could be created. For the Alliance this would provide a site for our language and other cultural activities, a perfect fit. With the blessings of the Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor, we were fortunate to obtain our first home within Greenville City Hall. This was the beginning of the International Center of the Upstate, now Upstate International.

In 1999, I created our local International Women’s Club, an organization that had meant a lot to me in Pittsburgh when I was a newcomer to the States. Its purpose was to bring the local and International Community closer together. The leadership of Margo Pons and her team has provided energy, stability and many new ideas leading to the continuous growth and success of this organization. The benefits derived by membership in Upstate International are too numerous to list, but suffice it to say that I believe our shared experience of living in the Upstate of South Carolina is greatly enhanced and the world is a better place because of it.

Margo Pons

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Meet Margo

I joined Upstate International in 2000 when a French neighbor invited me to a meeting of the International Women’s Club (led by Monique at the time)! I was pleasantly surprised to meet a large number of women from all over the world. We bonded sharing stories of  our experiences moving to a new country. We all had much in common: most of us had given up our own jobs, left our families, friends and homes to begin a new adventure in a different country. Special friendships were formed right away.


I became an instant volunteer and have been ever since! The International Women’s club consists of many great women from all over the globe (including the United States) who become instant friends. It is wonderful to keep meeting new ladies and see them getting settled in, becoming more comfortable with their new environment and establishing new friendships. Many of my closest friends I met through Upstate International and the International Women’s club!  It is a home away from home for many people!!! We want those women to enjoy their stay in the Upstate, whether it is on a short term contract or an extended stay.

The International Women’s club committee comes up with new and fresh ideas, and a variety of programs and activities to make it enjoyable for everyone! And the combination of language classes and all of the other programs that Upstate International has to offer, participation quickly turns into a complete ‘feels like home’ package!

Sara Yoon

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Meet Sara

Sara Yoon finds joy in helping others. A 22-year resident of Greenville, she has been actively involved in Upstate International since its inception. She is also a founding member and current director of the Korea Center of Greenville, dedicated to fostering and preserving the cultural heritage unique to Korean American ancestry and to serving its community members through various artistic, recreational, and educational programs and social services.

Through her business and personal experiences, Sara recognized a need for a focal point that could provide for both the emotional and functional needs of Korean newcomers to the area. To that end, the Korea Center was established and now provides Korean language classes for children and adults, cooking and art classes, cultural events, and community networking.  The Center also offers interpretation and translation services to the local community as well as language and cultural classes to local companies for training employees who might be traveling to Korea. In addition, Sara provides essential relocation information.

Born and raised in Busan, Korea, Sara received her business degrees from Busan University before moving to New York. She later married and moved to Greenville, where she dedicates her time to her family, to her work as a realtor, and to the community. She enjoys painting, traveling, and meeting people.

Yuji Kishimoto

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Meet Yuji

Yuji Kishimoto’s background and experience has made him a perfect fit for the Board of Upstate International and the steering committee for International Month.  After graduating from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1965, teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Upstate of South Carolina got lucky when Yuji took a position at Clemson University in 1980.  Acting as Special Assistant to the President for US-Japan relations in education, economic development and culture for 25 years until his retirement in 2011, Yuji’s passion for cultural exchange was able to flourish.  Governor Carroll Campbell named him the 1989 Economic Development Ambassador and the Japanese Government also recognized him by awarding him a Special Commendation for Cultural Exchanges. Yuji also participated in the creation of the Japan America Association of SC and serves as a board member of Greenville Sister City International.


Needless to say, given Yuji’s interest in and experience as a cultural exchange ambassador throughout his career, he is a natural for the Upstate International Ambassador program.  Yuji welcomes any chance to talk about Upstate International and will easily convince you of the many benefits you will derive by participating in our programs.

David Esch

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Meet David

After 30 years of living abroad and in Washington, DC, David and his wife, Sylvia Stewart, retired and moved to Greenville in 2008.  Since then he has had a tremendous influence on the Upstate of South Carolina through his many volunteer positions.  His continuing interest in all things international led him to serving as Chair of the International Task Force, as well as serving on the Steering Committee of Upstate International Month.  He was involved in Upstate International Month from its inception in 2013 and has been a driving force behind its success.  David is most comfortable networking, connecting people and businesses to opportunities they might not even know exist, and watching the partnerships grow!