2018 GALEO Institute for Leadership Profiles
Alma Maldonado was born in Richmond, Virginia to Mexican parents and moved to Georgia when she was three years old. She lived in Doraville for two years and then moved to Lawrenceville in 2003 where she continues to reside to this day. She graduated from Brookwood High School in 2015 and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s of business administration in international business at Georgia Gwinnett College, anticipating a spring 2019 graduation date.
Alma is very active on campus, where she is the current chapter secretary for the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) and is a member of the Honors Program, Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), the National Society of Leadership & Success (Sigma Alpha Pi), and Wesley College Ministries. She also recently starred in GGC and the Aurora Theatre’s fall musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Rona Lisa Peretti. In her free time, she writes weekly articles for the Alpharetta, Georgia community of the online platform, Odyssey and loves to let a good laugh out by watching comedies (currently binge-watching The Office) on Netflix.
Anthony Pacheco is a Georgia grown first-generation college student, tracing his family roots back to Oaxaca, Mexico.
He is currently pursuing two Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology & Chemistry at Georgia State University.
As a dedicated environmentalist, he has interned for the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience and is a certified Sustainability Ambassador to the City. As a scientific artist, he has published artwork for literary journals and has been featured in numerous student art exhibitions including at the Woodruff Arts Center. As a strong supporter of civic engagement; he has worked on historical campaigns for both the first Latina and Asian American women elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. Anthony plans to one day run for office and to further his studies to become an advocate for the environment and his community. He hopes to one day become a public servant and be a committed elected official.
Anthony Vargas was born in Los Angeles, California to immigrant parents from Mexico. While working full-time, Anthony decided to go back to school and received his Bachelor’s in Global Business Management in 2010 from the University of Phoenix.
He and his wife moved to Atlanta, GA in 2016, where he is currently the Senior Manager of Operations for ResMed Corp, a medical device company that treats sleep disordered breathing, COPD & and other major chronic diseases. Anthony is looking to make a positive impact in the community by utilizing his business leadership experience to help drive change and cultivate future leaders of our country.
Christina J. Peterson
Christina J. Peterson is a licensed attorney that received her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Georgia School of Law and her bachelors from the University of Memphis (summa cum laude with University Honors).
Ms. Peterson has dedicated most of her career to public service. While serving as a prosecutor in Douglas County, she assisted in the creation and implementation of the first felony accountability court in the county, served as the drug court prosecutor and selected the court’s first 15 high need drug abusers to participate in the court, and created and managed Douglas County’s first felony pretrial diversion program geared toward mentoring and transforming first time teenage offenders into productive citizens.
She is committed to serving her community and volunteers her time speaking to youth, advocating for her community, serving underprivileged families, and serving as a foster parent for abused and neglected children. Peterson also serves as Vice President of Region 3 of the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Georgia. Ms. Peterson is a woman of character and believes that in order to make our streets safe, we must serve and touch our communities. For more information, visit petersonforthepeople.com.
Darrick Emmanuel Alvarez
Darrick Emmanuel Alvarez was born in Orlando, Florida and moved to Atlanta, Georgia at 2 years old. His parents and siblings are from Lima, Peru; he is the only one in his family that was born in the United States. He graduated from Collins Hill High School in 2015, and began attending Georgia Gwinnett College the following fall. He is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Political Science with a concentration in Legal Studies and a minor in Business Administration. He plans to attend Law school once he graduates from GGC in hopes to become an Immigration Lawyer. Darrick is a part-time commercial bank teller at Wells Fargo and is an active member of OLAS (Organization of Latin American Students). Through OLAS he volunteers and helps plan events that better the community on and off campus. Aside from work, school, and organizations, Darrick’s hobbies consist of playing the drums, traveling, hiking, and some arts and crafts.
Elia Ramos Gillooly
Elia Ramos Gillooly is a native of Bolivia and has been living in the United States since 2012. She earned a Law degree from the Universidad Autonoma Juan Misael Saracho (UAJMS) in January 2009 and worked at the Superior Court of Tarija (her hometown) before moving to the United States. She developed her passion for helping the immigrant community through her volunteering and own personal experience with the immigration process in the United States. As a result, she has a unique perspective and understanding of the challenges of the immigrant community. She works at Elliott Immigration Law LLC. as a paralegal. Her work has provided her with the opportunity to show her passion for service and justice. She volunteers regularly with El Refugio, a ministry of hospitality and visitation serving families and friends of immigrants detained in Georgia. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, bicycling, reading, playing video games and spending time with her friends and family.
Elizabeth Plasencia was born in Jalostotitlán, Jalisco and raised in a small suburban town outside of Atlanta. Entering college, her mother became her biggest inspiration to pursue a degree in business as she witnessed the sacrifices she made as an entrepreneur when coming to the United States.
Elizabeth is a first-generation college student and currently attends Georgia State University while majoring in marketing and minoring in public policy. She has previously received two certificates with The Coca-Cola Company as an Equipment Service Representative. She also was elected as a senator for the Student Government Association, representing the Robinson College of Business last year. Elizabeth was a previous mentor and volunteer for The Latin American Association and a former intern for high school seniors and middle school students in Gwinnett County. During her time with the Latin American Association, she facilitated these students with adequate tools such as SAT/ACT prep, college applications, financial aid, and scholarships to prosper in high school and college. Elizabeth served Publicity Chair for Avanzando El Sueño, an organization at her school to help undocumented students attain a scholarship to a university. She currently holds a position as Vice President Marketing Chair for Association of Latino Professionals For America. During fall 2017, she interned at United States House of Representatives with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Ms. Plasencia has been faced with social issues regarding education around her Latino community and would like to be a voice for DACA recipients to ensure the right to education for these students. Her driving factor in her life is to become the first generation in her family to graduate with a business degree, getting her Masters in Business Administration, and to become involved in the public sector. She is confident her experience at school and work will give her the diligence to accomplish her ultimate goal of receiving an MBA or a degree in law school. During her leisure time, she likes to network with corporate companies, volunteers at her local church and works with youth to advocate for post-secondary education.
As a GALEO leader, she hopes to develop a better understanding of the issues Latinos face in their local communities and trusts GALEO to equip her with resources to become an empowered mentor, leader, and professional in her career. Elizabeth is a firm believer in pursuing her mission to break educational barriers in her Latino community and knows representation matters.
Erick J. Castro Monreal
Erick J. Castro Monreal was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon Mexico and moved to the U.S when he was 15 years old. He went to Kennesaw Student University to obtain a degree in Finance. While his time in school Erick competed and placed among the three best in the state at the” PHI BETA LAMBDA” economy and finance competition, and is currently a member of the Kiwanis Marietta Chamber.
Erick began his own business 2 years ago as a Realtor in order to pay for school. Erick is most passionate about fighting poverty and for the right to education around the world.
Evelia Ruiz, is an active volunteer in the Norcross/ Duluth community since 2002. In 2006 ,at a parent information meeting, she became a volunteer for SPARKS ,a grant from Kellogg’s. She also recruited parents to join a Pre Kinder Garden for the kids in her community. She also worked with PACE, Parent Service Project and United Way of Greater Atlanta ,as a coach during the Vision and Voice Parent Leadership Institute during 2011, at Dunbar School. While volunteering with United Way she became part of the Early Education Committee who advocates for early childhood education. In 2004 while searching for resources for her marriage she found Ser Familia ,a nonprofit that provides services for the Hispanic community. After receiving services she learned that Ser Familia had a youth program. When her oldest son turned 13 she encouraged him to join Renovacion Juvenil and they both became active volunteers for Ser Familia.She became a certified trainer for Strengthening Families ,an international renown program that helps families communicate better with their teens. Mrs. Ruiz became an Educational Interpreter by SESO Inc. in 2016, and now works as an outsource Educational Interpreter for Gwinnett County and Dekalb County.
Gabriel Lopez is from Mexico and was born in Zapopan, Jalisco and brought to the United States in 1996. He has lived in Gwinnett county all his life and graduated from Mountain View High School. Gabriel is taking online classes at the University of West Georgia. He is pursuing an economics degree and plan to open his own business with my family. He enjoys helping out at his local church where he is a youth leader and translator. Some of his hobbies include kayaking, hiking, running, and playing sports with my friends. He is passionate about the youth getting involved in their communities so we can make and impact and stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves.
Gian Franco is originally from Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He moved to Georgia at the age of 5, settling in Marietta, with his parents and siblings. Franco is a DACA recipient and decided to join the Year UP Atlanta program instead of going to college in 2015. After his 6 months of training, he joined the Information Technology team for his hands-on internship. Upon graduation from Year Up, Franco transitioned from a contractor to a full-time position with Kaiser Permanente where he has done work for the last two years supporting different facilities around metro Atlanta, Hardware Refresh, and other various projects. When Franco is not working he enjoys spending time with his family, strives to pursue a higher education, and challenges himself to join other non-profit organization to help his community.
Ibeth Gutierrez was born in Lawrenceville, GA. Her parents are from Mexico. In 2013, she graduated from Norcross High School and later decided to attend Georgia Gwinnett College. She is currently perusing a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and is planning to attend law school to become a lawyer. During her first two semesters at Georgia Gwinnet, Ibeth discovered a passion for law and to help her community. She is very involved on her campus due to the different leadership roles and students organizations she is part of. Ibeth is a member, and vice president of PI Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society chapter at GGC and the Advocacy Committee Chair for the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS). Ibeth hopes to become an immigration lawyer to help her community. During her free time, Ibeth enjoys reading and watching Korean/Chinese drama as well as being outdoors.
My name is Isabel Otero. I am a proud Cuba-Rican who grew up in Northwest Georgia. In 2010, I graduated from The University of Georgia where I received my degree in International Affairs. I recently returned to my home state of Georgia from Washington, DC, where I fought for the rights of immigrant workers at the Civil Rights Division of U.S. Department of Justice. While in DC, I also received a Paralegal Studies Certificate from The George Washington University in 2013. Now, I work as community advocate and paralegal for a public interest law firm in Atlanta that is dedicated to racial justice and conquering inequality. In addition, I work as an advocate for reproductive justice while volunteering for organizations that provide funding to people in need of reproductive healthcare. I have dedicated my life to work on in solidarity with immigrant workers and families to ensure their civil rights remain intact. We should all have the chance to live a life of dignity no matter our circumstances, nationality, or identities. I believe that we will win.
Jennifer Zenteno-Pearce is originally from Tlalnepantla, Mexico and proudly grew up in Zoquitlan, Puebla through the age of 7 before she was brought to Atlanta, Georgia in 2000. After graduation Jennifer attended Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) and later transferred to Kennesaw State University to continue her Bachelor’s in Biochemistry. During her tenure at GPC she served as a Senator for her school’s Student Government Association and was actively involved in the Latino Connections Club. She has also been involved with the Latin American Association for the past 9 years as a volunteer for summer camps and the Annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference.
Jennifer currently serves as GALEO’s Executive Associate. She firmly believes in the strength and potential of her community. One of the visionary leader’s she admires is Roberto C. Goizueta who once said, “My story boils down to a single, inspiring reality … the reality that a young immigrant could come to this country, be given a chance to work hard and apply his skills, and ultimately earn the opportunity to lead not only a large corporation, but an institution that actually symbolizes the very essence of America and American ideals.”
Community is one of her core values and weekends are no exceptions as she enjoys serving at her local church. At home, she enjoys spending time with her two cats, Timmy&Lena and her loving southern husband and hopes to be an example of love and joy found in diversity.
Jonathan Flack is a bilingual public interest and civil rights lawyer in Atlanta — his hometown. He works at Atlanta Legal Aid’s South Atlanta Office as the primary Spanish-Speaking Legal Aid lawyer serving the low-income Hispanic communities of south Fulton and Clayton County.
In his current role, Jonathan provides free legal services to low-income clients in civil legal matters such as: helping sexual assault survivors obtain temporary protective orders against their abusers; defending tenants in housing court; and conducting outreach to the Spanish-Speaking communities in Clayton County.
Jonathan loves to travel, read, play chess, and cheer for Atlanta United!
Joshua Emiliano Rodriguez
Joshua Emiliano Rodriguez, Pennsylvania born, California raised, educated in Georgia, is the proud son of a Puerto Rican veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Georgia, majoring in Communication with a minor in Film Production. Falling in love with debate while pursuing his degree, Josh traveled around the country competing in tournament in multiple formats. Debate also sparked an interest in law and politics, where he hopes his creativity and charisma can help make a meaningful impact on the world. Josh is currently preparing for law school in the fall, volunteering for a handful of non-profits, and is involved with multiple startups and a new Atlanta based production studio.
Kimberly Eliosa was born in Queens, New York and moved to Duluth, Georgia in 2007. She graduated from Duluth High School in 2013 and is currently pursuing her Bachelors degree in International Business and Accounting at Georgia Gwinnett College. Kimberly is currently the Vice President of a student organization on campus called Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), a member of the Organization of Latin American Students, the National Society of Leadership and Success and a student ambassador at Georgia Gwinnett College. On her free time, she loves to watch Netflix and go out with her family and friends
Leo Rodriguez was born in Lafayette, Louisiana and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. He came to the United States 14 years ago and has been living in Atlanta, GA ever since. He graduated from the Central University of Venezuela with a Bachelor of Arts in Education. He taught Spanish and also worked as a substitute teacher for Cobb County. He assisted in reunifying children with their parents through the Department of Families and Children by providing home evaluations and parenting classes. He is currently a senior match support specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta (BBBS), a non for profit organization providing children facing adversity with strong and enduring, one to one relationships in order to make their lives for the better. He is also the President of the Hispanic Mentoring Program, which focuses on encouraging, engaging and sustaining Latino children, and recruiting volunteers and families in joining the BBBS program.
Luis A Montanez
Luis A Montanez was born in Michoacán, Mexico on March 23rd, 1998 and moved to Georgia when he was four years old. He has been living in Duluth for fifteen years and has not moved from this area since then. He graduated from Duluth High School in 2016 and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in Cinema and Media Arts Production at Georgia Gwinnett College. He is active on campus, where he is a student ambassador which provides tours for future potential students. He is also the Chairperson for the Education Committee for the Organization of Latin American Students. His hobbies include playing soccer, hiking, cooking, and photography. He currently has created “Eternity Productions” a photography/ film business that he hopes to turn into a company one day. He loves to listen to EDM music on his free time and also hopes to better his networking skills while part of the GALEO Institute for Leadership Program.
Luis Mora is an Associate Professor at Georgia Gwinnett College. He has a doctorate in Spanish Literature from Florida State University with an emphasis on contemporary literature and he has a Master’s of Fine Art in Creative Writing from the University of Texas in El Paso. He has published a book of poetry and a book of short stories. Also, Luis Mora is the director of the program H.O.G.A.R. Hispanic Organization for Growth, Advancement, and Retention. This is a program dedicated to the advancement of Hispanic students on Georgia.
Marco is an immigrant advocate and currently serves as President of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway. A 2012 Cross Keys High School Alumnus, Marco later received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Georgia State University in 2017. Marco Palma lives in Chamblee, Georgia, where he is helping his neighbors and friends gain access to resources so that they can become more involved in their community. He pursues painting as hobby.
Mariela Tejada-Garcia was born in the Dominican Republic and migrated to the United States in 2011. She expects to graduate in December 2018 from Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) with a bachelor’s degree in Business with a concentration in International Business. During her enrollment at GGC, Mariela has assumed several leadership roles within different student organizations including serving as the Vice President of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) during the 2016 term, as Senator for the School of Business for the Student Government Association (SGA) in 2015 and 2016, and as Founding Treasurer and now President for the student chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA). In addition to her involvement in college, Mariela works as a Marketing Assistant for a local marketing agency and frequently participates in different professional development workshops.
My name is Natasha Bailey. I am originally from the state of Kansas and moved to Atlanta, GA in late July of 2015. I hold dual Bachelor Degrees from Kansas State University in Family Studies and Human Services and Women’s Studies. While a student at Kansas State University I worked with a local organization to raise awareness and provide resources to DACA recipients which sparked my interest in learning more about immigration and the effects of current laws on people and families in particular. Since moving to Atlanta I have worked in various capacities to ensure justice for people in various communities. Currently I volunteer and/or have volunteered with organizations like SONG ( Southerners on New Ground), The Feminist Women’s Health Center, BAJI ( The Black Alliance for Just Immigration) The New Georgia Project and many more. My goal is to attend law school and one day practice immigration law. I believe that working with Galeo will not only provide valuable insight in my pursuit of that goal but also help to build relationships while sharpening necessary leadership skills.
Patricia Chourio is a communications professional currently working at YKK Corporation of America. Born and raised in Venezuela, Patricia moved with her family to Atlanta, GA 14 years ago. She attended Kennesaw State University where she received a B.S in Communication/ Media Studies and a M.A in Integrated Global Communication. For the past two and a half years she worked with several non-profit organizations in SE Asia. Her involvement with different underserved communities inspired her to start her own social enterprise, which aims to support artisans from ethnic minority groups in the region. She is fluent in Spanish and English, enjoys traveling, photography and learning about different cultures.
Rebecca Pool, a Gainesville Georgia native, is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. She will not only graduate with honors from the University of North Georgia, receiving a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, but holds positions in three separate national honor societies: Phi Theta Kappa, Pi Kappa Delta, and Psi Chi. As a member of the university’s Debate team and Latino Student Association (LSA), Rebecca is one of the driving forces behind the recent increase in Spanish Language Debates within the American university system. Most of the schools are on the East Coast, but her influence reaches as far as Oregon; where she helped organize the first exhibition tournament spoken entirely in Spanish. She also organizes (and competes in) tournaments across the world. She is involved with international debate programs including Spain, Chile, and Colombia. Believing in debate’s inherent benefits to those who participate, Rebecca plans on starting a non-profit organization, whose aim is to implement multilingual debates in universities not only within the United States, but throughout the world.
Reynaldo Radhames Rodriguez
Reynaldo Radhames Rodriguez was born on the Southside of Bay Shore, NY in a majorly-immigrant community, smack-dab on the middle of Long Island. Reynaldo picked up communicating in Spanish at an early age, spending most of his earlier years surrounded by his Dominican family as well as taking trips every summer to Costa Rica. Reynaldo has gained valuable employment experience working for major Retailers, Law Firms and Politicians. In January of 2017, he returned to Gwinnett Technical College on a mission to obtain his Associates Degree in Business Management/Pre-Law. Reynaldo is currently an AmeriCorps VISTA, serving for a year with Mayor Kesha Lance Bottom’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Welcoming Atlanta. Rey has already made his presence known within the neighborhoods he has been working closely with. He is most passionate about advancing immigrant and refugee rights, fostering inclusive environment through adequate public policy, educating the community at large and strengthening capacity within Latino residents and governmental organizations.
Rosa Diaz received her Associates Degree in Science Paralegal Studies from Everest College. Currently, she is a Senior Paralegal for A Salmon Firm, LLC where she works extensively in matters surrounding juveniles, both family and immigration law. Ms. Diaz is fluent in English and Spanish. She has three young and active boys and a supportive husband at home. She loves her work because she enjoys helping people understand their rights and is proud to be a part of the fight for families to stay together.
Suzanna Ocampo was born in Fort Pierce, Florida but raised all her life in Cumming, Georgia. She is very passionate about God, her family, and helping others. She believes that the progression of a community is everyone’s responsibility which is why she has also become very passionate about being involved in hers. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors.
Valeria Loya is a daughter of immigrants that brought her from Chihuahua, Mexico to Georgia when she was only two years old. Her parents brought her to the United States in an effort to be able to offer her a better education, something that she has been able to fulfill by being the first high school graduate of her family . She went on to continue her education by pursuing a degree. She is currently enrolled at Georgia State University pursuing a bachelors degree in computer science. In the meantime, Valeria works at an accounting office as an assistant. Valeria is also a youth leader at her church Monte de Zion, where she works with team and young children. She hopes to one day be able to go on a missions trip to her home country in efforts to provide aid to communities in need. Val volunteers frequently at her local churches where she teaches English as a second language to adults and helps out filing out legal documents. After realizing the needs of her Latino community, Valeria is striving to become better equipped to help serve her community. Valeria loves spending time with her family and friends, especially when they all gather and make tamales together. In her free time she enjoys practicing the viola, painting and traveling.
Wendy Cuevas-Espelid was born in New York City and raised by Puerto Rican parents on Long Island. She graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.S. in Biology/Geology, qualified as a Veterinarian from the University of Liverpool, Faculty of Veterinary Science, in the United Kingdom, obtained her Master’s in Public Health from Emory University and is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
She worked in private practice for 10 years before moving over to the Georgia Department of Agriculture as the Associate State Veterinarian for 5 years. She is currently the Director of Veterinary Services for the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association and represents member veterinarians for the state of Georgia. She serves as the liaison with GEMA during emergencies/disasters affecting Georgia and is a member of a bioterrorism preparedness group, antibiotic resistance committee and a companion animal welfare group.
She has a passion for healthy lifestyle habits and prevention of chronic disease as well as promoting the One Health Agenda, which focuses on the relationship between humans, animals and the environment.
She is married, and a mother to two active boys as well as a sweet Lhasa Apso named Quincy. During her spare time, Wendy can be found reading, playing her flute or guitar, walking in nature or hanging out with her boys. Her next musical challenge will be to learn the mandolin.
She hopes to inspire others with her passion for community health initiatives and serve as a role model to all young people, specifically those in minority groups.
Zuri Espinoza was born and raised in Georgia. She is a first-generation student currently pursing a degree in Public Relation at Kennesaw State University. Zuri plans to attend law school once she graduates from KSU. She is passionate about helping her community and creating a positive change for everyone around her. As a GALEO member, she hopes to learn to better utilize her skills to serve her community, create positive change and encourage others to become agents of change. In her spare time, she enjoys going shopping, dancing, and socializing.