Tunua Thrash-Ntuk (Courtesy photo)

If you don’t know Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, you should. She is quintessentially L.A., a hometown girl who wanted to do good for her community and did.

First, let’s get her wonderfully distinctive name, undoubtedly a conversation starter, pronounced correctly, its phonetic translation is (two-new-uh) (th-rash) (in-took).

Thrash-Ntuk always had a vision for the community where she grew up. “In elementary school, I rode the bus from South Central Los Angeles to the Westside, and I noticed that my community looked different from others,” Thrash-Ntuk said.

“I saw that my neighborhood could be what other neighborhoods were as a child. I remembered thinking that I should not have to move to have greenery and parks that other communities had.”

Thrash-Ntuk also remembers the love and a home owned by her grandmother. “That home provided stability because I lost my dad at a young age, and my mom had to raise two children on limited wages. I understood what owning a home could mean to a family and the security that homeownership brought.”

Thrash-Ntuk shared that living in that two-bedroom house was cramped, but it was home, and every day she knew she had a place to go. The stability of that experience served as motivation for Thrash-Ntuk to purchase her first home in her 20s, and it fueled her passion for assisting others in doing the same.

“I empathize with children whose housing is not stable and what it’s like to wonder if you need to take your belongings to school with you because you may not have housing at the end of the school day.”

She held onto her childhood idealism, and it not only informed her educational and professional paths, but also it led her to become a difference-maker, determined to advocate for communities with no voice. From South Central, Thrash-Ntuk earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies and would go on to earn a Master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

She initially found her niche, working as the executive director at the West Angeles Community Development Corporation. She played a critical role in garnering financial resources to construct the first commercial office and retail space at Crenshaw and Jefferson, the 24,000 square foot West Angeles Plaza.

“My name may not be on the buildings, but I know that it’s there because I cared about my community and invested the time to make it happen,” she said.

What began as a position at a small local office, Thrash-Ntuk saw more. She saw the potential to transform LA housing, small business, and lending programs through her work as senior executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation in Los Angeles (LISC LA), a nonprofit supporting community development in cities and rural areas.

Thrash-Ntuk’s list of accomplishments is admirable and many. When asked what she is most proud of at this stage in her professional life, the achievements roll off her tongue like a rushing stream.

Last year, LISC announced the Black Economic Development Agenda (BEDA), an initiative focused on closing the racial wealth gap. Through the L.A. COVID-19 Regional Recovery Fund, LISC equitably distributed more than $150 million in grants and loans to support small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID. With a generous donation from Wells Fargo, the Asset Building for Communities of Color (ABC) program assisted small businesses with long-term growth plans, allowing them to create jobs.

These achievements are just a fraction of the impact Thrash-Ntuk has on California’s long-term housing strategy. A game-changer, she was named one of L.A.’s Impact Makers to watch and recently received the Wells Fargo Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Award by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

With the Center by Lendistry, Thrash-Ntuk hopes to expand the reach of underserved small businesses in developing strategies for affordable housing finance products nationally. While it saddens Thrash-Ntuk to leave LISC, she is excited about the future with the Center.

“I believe I’m leaving LISC at its strongest, in a solid financial position where they will continue to drive growth and progress,” Thrash-Ntuk said.

A natural advocate, she plans to continue to use her platform to position the Center as a “national leader in equitable solutions that support and empower diverse businesses that are the backbone of our communities.”