2011 Fellows
National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 27 Years of Latina Leadership  

Advancing Latina Leaders in Nonprofits

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ALL IN 2011


Lili Allala

Lili Allala
Seattle, WA

As Restoration Director for the Nature Consortium, she is responsible for overseeing the Urban Forest Restoration Project in the West Duwamish Greenbelt-the largest remaining contiguous forest in the city of Seattle. She comes to the Pacific Northwest by way of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English, a minor in Spanish from Winona State University in Minnesota. Lili has five years of working experience in ecological restoration specializing in wetlands.

Lili holds certificates in Nearshore Restoration as well as Watershed Stewardship from Washington State University, Designing Compensatory Mitigation and Restoration Projects from the Washington Coastal Training Program, and a certificate in Wetland Science and Management from the University of Washington. She is also trained as a wildland firefighter with a Wildland Fire Fighter S-130/190Certification.

Lili has extensive experience in volunteer management, upland and wetland restoration, stream restoration, as well as trail building and maintenance at both government and non-governmental organizations. Outside of work, Lili likes to go hiking and camping, work in her garden, create jewelry, read, practice her blacksmithing skills, and attend workshops and trainings in social, racial, and environmental justice.


Jacqueline Amparo

Jacqueline Amparo
Los Angeles, CA

For over five years, Jacqueline has worked across California to develop and implement college access programs for low-income students in the UC system, and nonprofit sector. Currently, as the Academic Coordinator for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), she is responsible for developing and implementing the College Access Program which guides low-income youth, specifically undocumented students, through the educational system. Jacqueline’s involvement in education access and immigrant rights began in high school. She co-founded Wise Up!, a high school youth project of CHIRLA that began in 2001 to advocate for  undocumented youth to pay in-state tuition in California’s institutions of higher education.

Jacqueline holds a B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in Chicano Studies, from the University of California, Berkeley. Throughout college, she continued to be a member of CHIRLA, and co-founded the CA Dream Network, a statewide network of college campus organizations who actively advocate for education access, and immigration reform. Her passion for social justice led her to continue her work in education and immigrant rights by helping youth obtain the information and skills necessary to become socially conscious leaders.  


Leticia Andueza

Leticia Andueza
Montebello, CA

Presently, Leticia Andueza serves as the Director of Administration and Human Resources for New Economics for Women (NEW), a non-profit community economic development organization serving low-income families in the Los Angeles area. She also serves in other capacities such as, Director of Educational Programs for three state and county-funded programs managed by NEW.  In this capacity, Leticia is responsible for ensuring that the implementation of all three programs is responsive and relevant to the needs of the population being served.

Leticia received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from California State University, Fullerton and plans to pursue a Masters degree in Public Administration in an effort to further her knowledge and education.  She is rooted by her passion to make a difference in the lives of children and youth by transform impoverished communities into prosperous, hopeful neighborhoods. 


Stephanie Bravo

Stephanie Bravo
San Jose, CA

Stephanie Bravo is the Co-Founder and President of StudentMentor.org, the national college student mentoring program. As a first-generation college student, she felt completely lost. But, by enrolling in a local medical mentorship program and establishing a supportive relationship with a mentor, she was able to successfully navigate through the pre-medical path. She noticed that many other college students did not have adequate support to graduate and transition into a career. Thus, Stephanie created StudentMentor.org with the mission of increasing college student graduation rates and promoting a robust 21st century workforce. She actively advocates for increasing Latinas in higher education and in leadership positions through her volunteer work with the Latina Coalition for Silicon Valley.
Stephanie graduated with honors earning a B.A. in Psychology from San Jose State University and was nominated as the chair of the Latino Medical Student Association Mentorship Program at UCI School of Medicine. Stephanie was also selected as a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar and has spoken at the HSF-Macy’s Hispanic Heritage Event promoting Latinos in higher education. She is a proud Mexican-American spanning back four generations when her great-grandparents retired from a life of migrant farming and settled in San Jose, California in the 1940s.

Wendy Cervantes

Wendy Cervantes
Washington, DC

Wendy Cervantes is the Vice President of Immigration and Child Rights Policy for First Focus, a national bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. In this role she is responsible for leading the organization’s work in cross-cutting policy areas that impact children of immigrants and their families including child welfare, immigration, education, human rights, family economics, and health.

Before joining First Focus, Wendy served as Director of Programs at La Plaza, a Latino community-based organization in central Indiana. At La Plaza Wendy oversaw the development and evaluation of education, health, and social service programs that reached over 7,000 families annually. Prior to La Plaza, Wendy worked at the Annie E. Casey Foundation where she managed the national immigrant and refugee families portfolio and the District of Columbia portfolio.

Wendy also has experience as a transnational community organizer, an adult ESL instructor, and a youth program coordinator. She currently serves on the Associate Board of the Latin American Youth Center. The proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, she holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies and Political Science from the University of New Mexico and a B.A. in Communications from the University of Southern California.



Yesenia Flores Diaz
Germantown, MD

Yesenia Flores Diaz is a Communications and Outreach Coordinator atthe National Alliance on Mental Illness of Montgomery County (NAMI MC) where she supports the organization’s mission to advocate for and provide information and outreach to people living with mental illness, their families and caregivers. In addition to implementing a monthly newsletter and education meeting, Mrs. Diaz broadens employers’ understanding of mental illness by delivering a series of targeted, Awareness in the Workplace presentations. Recently, she presented at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Prior to joining NAMI MC, she worked as an Operations Manager for a major Federal initiative on underage drinking prevention sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. During her earlier professional career, she worked at trade associations representing the interests of 3.1 million registered nurses across the Nation as well as ensuring access to healthcare for the underserved and uninsured populations across Maryland and Delaware.

Mrs. Diaz has served actively on a number of boards and mentored teens. She is a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., and has degrees from Lehman College (B.A., English) and the Johns Hopkins University (M.S., Organizational Counseling).


Vanessa Farias

Vanessa Faxas
New York, NY

Vanessa Faxas is currently the Hispanic and Underserved Markets Consultant for Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), the nation’s premier leadership organization for girls ages 5–17. Working within the Membership & Volunteerism Department, Vanessa leads the organization’s Hispanic membership growth efforts.  In this capacity, Vanessa also directly supports 112 Girl Scout councils across the country as they implement strategies to recruit and retain local Hispanic girls and volunteers, build support systems, and use Spanish language resources to provide exceptional leadership experiences and opportunities for all Latinas and their families.

Prior to GSUSA, Vanessa’s experience in the non-profit sector included Program Development and Evaluation Intern at The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families in New York City, and as a Housing Scholar at the Elizabeth Development Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey. 

A native New Yorker of Dominican descent, Vanessa is passionate about the advancement of the Hispanic/Latino community, particularly in the areas of youth and families, higher education, and Latina leadership. Vanessa earned a Master’s of Science degree in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2008, and she is the recipient of several academic leadership awards, including the 2007 Dean’s Award for Distinguished Students at her undergraduate alma mater, Ramapo College of New Jersey. She also is a member of several national honor societies, including Phi Alpha—for social work students—and Omicron Delta Kappa, National Leadership Honor Society.


Jennifer R Garcia

Jennifer R. García
Boston, MA

Jennifer has provided legal counsel to MAPC since 2009, ensuring the organization’s compliance with federal and state law. As a member of the Government Affairs team, she focuses on promoting MAPC’s legislative efforts in the areas of municipal health insurance reform, regionalization and land use reform. She also manages MetroFuture, Inc., a 501(c)(3) affiliated with MAPC, by convening and supporting the board of directors, maintaining the corporation in compliance with applicable federal and state law, and overseeing financial and project staffing.

Prior to joining MAPC, Jennifer was a policy analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and has worked for other non-profit organizations, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York City and Self-Help in Durham, North Carolina. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History-Sociology at Columbia University and a Juris Doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jennifer is a former NALEO Congressional fellow and a recent graduate of the Commonwealth Seminar and the Initiative for Diversity in Civic Leadership (IDCL). She is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and currently serves on the board of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Jennifer is proud to be a third generation Tejana. She is interested in politics and passionate about women’s issues. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, exploring New England, Pilates and boxing classes, and travel – especially when it takes her back home.


Janet Hernandez

Janet Hernandez
Lanham, MD

Janet Hernandez is a Capacity-Building Coordinator in the Capacity-Building Department at the Office of Research Advocacy and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza - the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.  Janet’s main work focuses on the development of Community Based Organization around the country.  She manages the Emerging Latino Communities (ELC) Initiative, a program that provides grants and technical assistance in the areas of community organizing and organizational development in an effort to develop effective and sustainable organizations that can advocate for the needs of the Latino community at the local and state level.

Janet is also a board member of Reform Immigration Now! an organization based in Georgia that focuses on building Latino leadership in the community.  Additionally Janet is a producer and host of the Latino Media Collective, a radio show in Washington DC that focuses on giving a voice to movements and people struggling for social justice around the world.  Janet is a native of the U.S. /Mexico border and holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Business Management from The American University in Washington, DC. 


Patricia Leon Guerrero

Patricia Leon-Guerrero
Rockville, MD

Patricia is the Director of National Alliances for Teach For America, the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity.  In her role as Director, Patricia collaborates and manages TFA’s national partnerships with top Latino non-profit organizations to ensure that they are enlisting the best and brightest Hispanic leaders to address one of our nation’s greatest injustices.  A few key partnerships that she has launched in this role include the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).

Prior to this role, Patricia piloted recruitment at thirteen Hispanic Serving Institutes in South Texas as the Diversity Recruitment Director for Teach For America.  Before joining their staff, Patricia was part of the 2004 Las Vegas Valley Charter corps.  Within her three years as a lead teacher, Patricia took on various leadership roles both inside and outside of her classroom.  In addition, she co-founded the first Parent Teacher Association for her elementary school, in which she helped raised $10,000 for the students, staff, and the community. 

Patricia was born in Ft. Stewart, GA into a military family and embraces her Colombian and Guamanian background.   After graduating from Air Academy High School in her hometown of Colorado Springs, CO, Patricia received scholarships from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Gates Millennium Scholars Program which gave her the opportunity to attend Syracuse University.  While at SU, she pursued a degree in Public Policy, Sociology, and Spanish.  Patricia is passionate about education reform, having an impact within our Latino community, and ensuring that all our students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  In her free time, she enjoys running, dancing, group fitness classes, and most importantly being surrounded by her family and good friends.


Marisa Limon

Marisa Y. Limón
Austin, TX

Marisa Y. Limón, M.Ed. currently serves as the Program Director for the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, a Central Texas nonprofit dedicated to collaboratively providing renewable financial assistance and support services to Latino college students. Her unique background in P-16 education and fund development in the local non-profit community positively inform her current role.  Marisa is a proven educator and up and coming nonprofit leader dedicated to the advancement of traditionally underserved communities. 

Prior to HSC, Marisa spent seven years as a classroom educator mentoring first-year teachers, chairing numerous campus initiatives and advising student groups. She holds both a Bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish a Master’s degree in education from the University Of Notre Dame. Marisa has also trained with the Indiana University Fund Raising School.   Marisa serves as an advisory board member to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and Teatro Vivo, a bilingual theater company based in Austin, TX.


Isabel Morales Lizano

Isabel Morales Lizano
Eagan, MN

Isabel has always been aware of the social and economic issues in the community. All her experiences helped shaped her personality, and have given her perseverance to set new accomplishments.  In College, she became a Committee Member for ACNUR to help improve the life of political refugees, she was selected by her College Faculty and CELA(Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos) to participate in a socio-economic study sponsored by World Bank, and also she worked for ECORAE to build strong programs for the Amazon communities in E  cuador as an assistant manager. Her education in Sociology and in International Relations has given her a better understanding of different ethnic communities. As a result, she worked as a Program Manager for AYUSA (Academic Year in the US) an international organization, where she received a World Award for “Best Service” that put her in charge of a Global program. When Isabel moved to Minnesota she became involved with Girl Scouts of River Valleys as the Community Specialist for the Latina program.

In 2008, Isabel received the 25 on the Rise Award given by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to the most influent Latinos/as in the State of Minnesota, also in the same year she was nominated as a United States Ambassador for the Girl Scout World Leadership Seminar in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Her participation in the seminar increased the number of opportunities to all the Latina Girl Scouts in her area. Through her work Isabel has significantly increased the Latina girl and adult membership. And her success in the social field has motivated Isabel to go back to school and pursue a master program in Non Profit management. She wants to learn new tools to reach more people, and make a larger impact in her community.


C Majors

Cecilia M. Majors
Brookeville, MD

Cecilia Majors is the Senior College Programs Specialist at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).  She manages the Congressional Internship Program comprised annually of over 60 college students.  She is responsible for placing interns in congressional offices, providing leadership learning opportunities, and tracking their progress.  Cecelia has demonstrated commitment and passion to the advancement of educational and leadership opportunities for Latino youth.  Since starting in November 2008, Ms. Majors has graduated over 150 participants from the Congressional Internship Program.

Prior to CHCI, Cecilia interned for the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI) and the Hispanic College Fund (HCF).  She completed research on national Latino demographics, evaluated youth programs, completed website updates, and assisted with the management of the application process.  She was also on the planning team for the 2008 NHLI Annual Executive Leadership Training Conference and Mujer Awards.
Cecilia is a part of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) Associate Board, working with the Communications and Marketing Committee.  She is also a member of Asociacion de Damas Ecuatorianas en Washington, DC (ADEW) and volunteers with the Latino Student Fund (LSF), a non-profit dedicated to Latino Youth education (K-12th).
Cecilia embraces her Hispanic heritage from Ecuador.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latino
Studies from New York University. 


Cristina Martinez

Cristina Martinez
Independence, MO

Currently Cristina Martinez serves as the Head Start Association Business Director for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, a charitable organization with an inclusive environment committed to enriching the quality of family, spiritual, social, mental and physical well-being.  She has dedicated her career to working in the non-profit sector and is passionate about being a change agent for the Latino community. 

Cristina is the Secretary on the MANA de Kansas City’s Board, the only Latina organization in Kansas City promoting leadership, community service and advocacy.  She also volunteers with Latinos of Tomorrow as an Adult Advisor and Co-Chair of the Fiesta Fundraising Committee. 

Cristina was recently selected as a Semi-Finalist for Verizon Wireless Nueva Latina Star Award.  She is involved with the following organizations: Greater Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Young Latino Professionals, Central Exchange, YMCA Multicultural Mentoring Program, and YMCA Hispanic Latino Leadership Network.

She is in the process of completing her bachelor’s degree in Management & Human Relations from MidAmerica Nazarene University and has aspirations to achieve a master’s degree in Social Work.  She is married to Wilmer Martinez who is a native of Honduras and has a three year old daughter Isabella. 


Sonya Martinez

Sonya Martinez
Bountiful, UT

Sonya Martinez serves as Center Coordinator for the Five Parks Community Action Center, which strives to ensure residents of manufactured housing communities have access to sufficient income and resources to support their families.  Sonya is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the center.  Prior to her role as Center Coordinator, Sonya worked as an Advocate on behalf of the low-income population in public policy and regulatory proceedings.

In addition, Sonya is a member of the Board of Directors for Dual Immersion Academy, a Title I Spanish/English Dual Immersion School.  She also serves on the Utah Hispanic Latino Advisory Council, the Utah Anti-discrimination and Labor Division Advisory Council, and the University of Utah’s College of Social Work Alumni Association. 
Sonya earned her Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Utah.  She holds licenses as a Certified Social Worker, Mental Health, Officer, and School Social Worker. She has experience working with individuals, and families in a variety of settings.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sonya also has deep roots in northern New Mexico.  She is a proud mother of a nine year old girl.


Michelle Mendez

Michelle Mendez
Baltimore, MD

Michelle is currently a Staff Attorney at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Washington, DC Immigration Legal Services after being the 2008-2010 DLA Piper Equal Justice Works Fellow. Michelle mainly represents immigrants in removal proceedings and advocates for their civil rights. She has presented at numerous national trainings and conferences—including the Department of Justice 2009 Conference on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—on the topics of immigration law, civil rights, & constitutional law.

She is an alumna of the University of Maryland School of Law where she received the William P. Cunningham Award for Exceptional Achievement and Service as well as the Annual Leadership in Public Interest Program Student Pro Bono Award. During law school, Michelle interned at Ayuda, Inc., CASA de Maryland,Inc., & the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica. Prior to law school, she worked at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, the French Ministry of Education in Rennes, France & the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Michelle earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Richmond, majoring in International Studies and minoring in Women's Studies and Leadership Studies. Michelle is a native Spanish speaker originally from Medellín, Colombia and speaks French fluently, in addition to the basics of the Arabic language.


Lana Molina

Liana Molina
Oakland, CA

Eva Liana Molina was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. In 1998 she relocated to the San Francisco bay area to attend Santa Clara University (SCU), where she obtained a B.A. in Sociology. It was at SCU that Liana determined her life's work would focus on organizing and advocacy for social, racial, and economic justice for marginalized communities. 
Since then, Liana has worked as an organizer with the Oakland-based East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and for Oakland Rising, an organization focused on voter education and mobilization. She has experience working with diverse constituencies including labor unions, community organizations, advocacy groups, faith leaders, and students.
Liana currently works with the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) as an organizer, leading CRC’s campaign to stop predatory payday lending and working with coalition members and allies to hold banks accountable and to end the foreclosure crisis. She advocates at the state and local level to change public policy and organizes to build the movement against predatory lending and for financial justice.


Karla Robles

Karla Robles
Phoenix, AZ

Karla Robles is the Vice President of College Going Initiatives for the Be A Leader Foundation (BALF). Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco and brought to the states at a very young age, Ms. Robles’ family always instilled in her the desire to obtain a college-education and in 2006 she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Business and Marketing from Arizona State University.

In 2008, Karla became BALF’s first employee and helped grow the number of students being served by the foundation from 120 to over 800 students.  Today, she leads BALF’s efforts to partner with like-minded organizations, to help secure resources for its students and to expand college access programming to students throughout the State of Arizona.

Karla is currently on the board of the ASU Hispanic Business Alumni helping the organization raise critical scholarship dollars. She is also a founding member of the first philanthropic Latina Giving Circle (LCG) in the country that has created a fund where all of the members decide jointly on community investments impacting the Hispanic Community. Karla is also a proud graduate of Valley Leadership class 30 and currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona.


Denisse Rodriguez

 Denisse Rodriguez
New York, NY

Currently Denisse Rodriguez serves as Manager of Donor Engagements at Year Up New York. Prior to her shift to the non-profit sector, Denisse was recruited into GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program where she initiated the GE Hispanic Forum for the GE Infrastructure, Billerica, MA site. Most recently, Denisse served as an Executive Assistant and Office Manager to Laborers’ Local Union 1421 in Massachusetts. As the local grew in membership and assets, Denisse responded by streamlining processes and adding capacity through an organizational operations upgrade. She also served as Events Coordinator and President of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers – Manhattan College Chapter where she led a variety of service and professional development events.

She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Manhattan College and recently obtained her MBA in Non-profit Management from Boston University. She is glad to be back in her home town of New York City and hopes to aid in closing the opportunity divide.


Adriana Taylor

Adriana Taylor
Mountain View, CA

Adriana Taylor has been part of CASA of San Mateo staff (Court Appointed Special Advocates) since December 2006. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a two year specialty degree in Human Development from Veracruz, Mexico.

Prior to her experience at CASA of San Mateo, she worked in academic settings teaching English and working with children with learning disabilities. In addition, her work with people includes providing counseling at HIV clinics and oversaw statewide health clinics dedicated to reducing tobacco use among Latinos.

Currently Adriana assists in the recruitment and training of Latino CASA volunteers and provides them with supervision and guidance as they work with dependents and wards of the Juvenile Court in San Mateo County. She is committed to help decrease the disproportionate levels of Latino children in the foster care system through the involvement of individual volunteers and leaders from the Latino community.


Maritza Valenzuela

Maritza Valenzuela
Washington, DC

 Maritza Valenzuela is a public health professional with a range of experience in health promotion, HIV prevention, electoral campaigns, issue advocacy, capacity building, and youth empowerment. Born and raised in Arizona, she graduated from the University of Redlands' Johnston Center for Integrative Studies in 2000 with a self-designed degree in Political Activism with an Emphasis in Environmental Issues. Over the next several years Maritza received campaign management training from Campaign Corps and staffed a local campaign; managed national projects for FairVote, a non-profit advocating for electoral reform; coordinated national nonviolence trainings for youth with the Fellowship of Reconciliation; organized presidential campaign volunteers for America Coming Together; and provided HIV testing, education, and counseling to high-risk communities. In 2008 Maritza was selected to participate in the Hispanic Serving Health Professions Schools' FRONTERA program in border health research. As a trainee Maritza worked with a microfinance agency in Nogales, Sonora to address the health needs of clients living in poverty and ultimately wrote a grant proposal that resulted in funding for multiple years of health education and clinical services for families in Nogales. In 2009 she received her Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University and the following year joined AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families to provide community-based organizations with training and technical assistance on HIV prevention programs targeting young women of color.

Maritza is currently Adolescent Health Program Manager for the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs in Washington, DC, where she oversees capacity building activities that equip state health department staff and partners to advance adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Maritza is a Certified Health Education Specialist and an active member of the American Public Health Association. She is passionate about the intersections of social justice and public health, addressing health disparities, anti-oppression education, and the health of sexual minority youth. She is also an avid knitter and yoga student.


Adina Veen

Adina Veen
San Diego, CA

 Adina was born and raised in Southern California. Following high school graduation she headed to San Diego where she earned her Bachelor’s in Sociology from San Diego State University.

Upon earning her bachelor’s degree, she became a member of the Junior League of San Diego, which jump-started her career into the nonprofit sector. For over six years she has worked in San Diego nonprofits and for the past four years with Girl Scouts San Diego. At Girl Scouts, she manages government relations and adult recognitions. 

With strong determination and dedication to the nonprofit sector, Adina earned a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from University of San Diego.  Adina and her husband Shawn enjoy living in sunny San Diego with their adorable dog, Lola.