CLASS OF 2023 - National Hispanic and Latino Executive Leadership and Fellowship Program

September 20, 2023

NLBHA, the NHL ATTC and PTTC teams are proud and honored to present the 2023 National Hispanic and Latino Executive Leadership and Fellowship Program Graduates. We cannot wait to see the great things they will accomplish in their careers and the beautiful impact they will continue to bring to our communities.


Angelita Valdez, LMSW, CAADC, RPT-S, CCS

Angelita Valdez, LMSW, CAADC, RPT-S, CCSAngelita Valdez is a Behavioral Health Therapist and the Chief Executive Officer and proud Owner of Servicios de Esperanza, LLC providing bilingual therapy, substance abuse counseling and play therapy to families and children. A Michigan State University graduate, Angelita received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work with a Chicano/Latino Studies Specialization in 2005 and a Master’s Degree of Social Work in 2006 from the MSU College of Social Science. While Angelita is a Licensed Master Social Worker, she also holds specializations as a CAADC- Certified Advanced Addictions and Drug Counselor as the only, Spanish speaking substance abuse counselor in Muskegon County, a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) as well as a being the only RPT-S, Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, in both Muskegon and Oceana counties. Angelita is also a published author with her first children’s book being published in 2022, “En Mi Casa y En la Escuela.” Angelita’s love for culture and children led to the creation of Libros de Esperanza, “instilling HOPE through shared story time.” Libros de Esperanza was created in 2021, by a Tía and Sobrina duo to inspire parents, families and children, to share in love, hope and difficult times. Libros de Esperanza fosters a safe place for Latino families and others to embrace their culture, customs and feelings.


Angie J. Castro Moreno, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW

Angie J. Castro Moreno, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSWAngie was born in Bogota, Colombia, and moved to the United States in 2006 with her family. Angie uses the pronouns She, Her, Hers, and Ella. She is a bilingual, Independent, Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over ten years of experience providing trauma-informed mental health services to the Latino community. She is the Director of the Mental Health, Substance Use, and School-based Mental Health Services at La Clinica del Pueblo. Before her current role in La Clinica, Angie overseed all mental health services offered by La Clinica in DC and MD, provided clinical care coordination services for the substance use program Volviendo a Vivir, and provided mental health services for the school-based mental health program Mi Refugio. Before joining la Clinica while living in Florida, she worked as a crisis line counselor, a case manager, a mental health provider for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, and an HIV grant coordinator for an LGBTQ program. Angie obtained her Bachelor's in Social Work and Master's in Clinical Social Work from Florida International University in Miami, Florida.


Austin De La Cruz, PharmD, BCPP

Austin De La Cruz, PharmD, BCPPDr. Austin De La Cruz is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Translational Research at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, an Adjunct professor of psychopharmacology at the University of St. Thomas Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, and an Instructor at the Baylor College of Medicine. He is a board-certified psychiatric pharmacy specialist, and his practice site is at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center where he cares for and treats veterans in Primary Care Mental Health.


Bernice Varela, LCSW

Bernice Varela, LCSWI grew up in a traditional Mexican American family in Northern New Mexico. The town that I grew up in consisted of poor and mentally ill with the college and the Behavioral Health Hospital being the main sources of revenue for the town. Seeing someone yelling on the street corner was never anything that was out of the norm. People took care of the mentally Ill and homeless and it was not stigmatized the way it is now. The acute clients were known by name and treated with dignity by everyone. It was so normal to me that when I moved out of the small town and saw how others treated the mentally ill and homeless, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was never expected to graduate High School, much less make it to University and graduate with honors. I started University with the intent to work in the Criminal Justice system and potentially move on to become a lawyer. After getting an AA, I switched my major, falling in love with psychology. I became a Social Worker because I wanted to be in the front lines. I got my BA in Social Work and went on to get an advanced Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work. I went back to University later and got certified in Forensic Psychology. Currently I am the Executive Director of a non profit serving women coming out of incarceration as well as women in the community, giving them the support they deserve to make lasting changes.


Christina Alejo, B.A

Christina Alejo, B.AChristina’s desire to serve grew out of her first-hand view of the many struggles and barriers that impact people’s ability to thrive. Christina graduated Magna Cum Laude from CSU, Fresno with a dual degree in Psychology and Chicano/Latin American Studies. She has served in the capacity of a mental health professional working with traditionally underserved populations for the past 26 years. In that time, Christina managed the largest Latino mental health research project, for over 16 years, exploring prevalence rates of mental health disorders, disparities in access to care, and the development of culturally & linguistically sensitive programs to address barriers to care. Christina is the Director for the Holistic Wellness Program and the Culturally Based Access Navigation Support program and provides oversight for the Lived Experience Advocacy and Diversity program, and two culture based Navigator programs across four counties. Christina has served as a consultant on various community-based initiatives, is trained in Clinical and Motivational Interviewing; is a Health Policy Leadership and Research Fellow, certified grant writer, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, National Coalition Building Institute Instructor, and cofounder of Mental Health America Central Valley. Christina serves on two local non-profit boards focused on food security, housing sustainability, and community development, and also serves on the CalMHSA Latino Workgroup providing content expertise on the development of culturally relevant materials.


Cira E. Burke, EDS.

Cira E. Burke, EDS.Bilingual trained School Psychologist and Director of TANF/JOBS Program, at the V.I. Department of Human Services, CEO of INSPIRE V.I.LLC. Combining my passion for mental health and diverse communities to support students and families. Committed to providing culturally sensitive services and empowering individuals to thrive. Life Motto " Inspire Self, Inspire Others and Transform the World!"



Elijah Jones, MSW, MEd, LISW-S, LICDC, CDP

Elijah Jones, MSW, MEd, LISW-S, LICDC, CDPElijah Jones (he/him) He is a licensed independent social worker, a licensed independent chemical dependency counselor, a certified community health worker, and a certified diversity professional. His work has included community crisis, inpatient psychiatry, integrated collaborative care, education, and supervision. He received his BSW and MSW from the University of Toledo and a Master’s in Education in Health and Wellness Education from the American College of Education. He was the inaugural Director of Health Equity and Clinical Resources for the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, where he led efforts to support county level behavioral health authorities throughout Ohio to advance health equity, diversity, and inclusion in their communities. Elijah is an active member of the local latino and LGBTQ+ community and a first generation college graduate. His passion lies in finding solutions to complex problems while grounding his work in trauma informed care principles, cultural humility, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). Currently, he is the Senior Manager of Programs and Services for the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, a county government agency responsible for ensuring a continuum of behavioral health services exists for residents.


Elisa DeVargas, PhD

Elisa DeVargas, PhDDr. Elisa DeVargas is a licensed clinical psychologist at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Child Psychiatric Center outpatient child and adolescent clinic where she provides bilingual (Span/Eng) services to individuals, families and groups. Dr. DeVargas is a faculty member of the UNM Health Sciences Predoctoral Psychology Internship program where she provides mentorship and clinical supervision to psychology students in their last year of doctoral training. She also teaches pre-doctoral intern didactic seminars and facilitates a supervision of supervision consultation group to provide support for colleagues who are supervising interns. Dr. DeVargas is an active leader both in her state psychological association and nationally. She is a board member of the New Mexico Psychological Association (NMPA) and serves as the Early Career Psychologist Committee Chair. She is also a voting member of the National Latinx Psychological Association’s Leadership Council and serves as the Early Career Psychologist Representative. In this role, Dr. DeVargas re-established a special interest group (SIG) focused on bilingual issues in Latinx mental health and created a consultation space where bilingual psychologists and mental health providers can practice clinical Spanish and engage in culturally sensitive clinical case consultation.


Esmirna Corona, LCSW-S

Esmirna Corona, LCSW-SEsmirna Corona is an LCSW-S in Dallas, Texas. Esmirna is a senior therapist at Children's Health, providing virtual behavioral health services to students in the North Texas region through a state-funded program, Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT). She is also an adjunct professor and Spanish group facilitator for a grief support group. Esmirna believes equity in education can pave the way for a better future. Therefore, she volunteers as a board member and mentor at Primos Dallas, an organization providing mentorship and support to first-generation Latinx high school students. Esmirna earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s in social work from the University of Texas at El Paso. Esmirna's expertise includes motivational interviewing, CBT, the FIRST psychotherapy model, and providing culturally appropriate services.


Flor Cano-Soto, LCSW

Flor Cano-Soto, LMSWFlor Cano-Soto was born and raised in Gallup, New Mexico to Mexican immigrant parents. She is the first in her family to graduate from college, earning her Bachelors and Masters of Social Work degrees from New Mexico Highlands University with a focus on Bilingual-Bicultural Clinical Social Work. She completed her practicums at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Young Children’s Health Center working with monolingual Spanish-speaking families and their children in the Zero-to-Three program as well as at Enlace Comunitario working with monolingual Spanish-speaking victims of domestic violence and their children. She has been employed with UNM for over 20 years and currently works at the School of Medicine – Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences – Division of Community Behavioral Health (CBH). She is the Program Manager for a large federal grant addressing the opioid epidemic in the state. In this position, she has fostered close working-relationships with federal, state, county, local and tribal community partners. She has extensive clinical, administrative and financial management experience.


Francheska Sevy Gurule, MD

Francheska Sevy Gurule, MDDr. Sevy Gurule is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She is a board certified physician in both family medicine and addiction medicine. Dr. Gurule is a native of New Mexico from a culturally rich small town in the northern part of the state. She graduated from UNM School of Medicine and completed family medicine training at the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency in California. Following residency, she completed an additional two years of training at the UNM Maternal and Child Health Fellowship, which she now directs. Her expertise is in perinatal substance use and she works with several entities across the state to improve access and quality of this care.


Fredy L. Martinez B., MS.Ed. CSAC, QMHC, PMC-CMHC, PMC-AC

Fredy L. Martinez B., MS.Ed. CSAC, QMHC, PMC-CMHC, PMC-ACFredy Martinez is a bilingual mental health and substance abuse counselor services coordinator district-wide at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), and a clinical consultant at Capital Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP). He holds several advanced degrees: a Postmaster's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and another in Addiction Counseling, both from Johns Hopkins University. He also earned a Master's in Science in Educational & Human Development from the National University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the Pontifical Bolivariana University. Mr. Martinez is Certified by the Virginia Board of Counseling as a Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) and Qualified Mental Health Professional (QMHP-C). His career extends across education, clinical mental health, addiction counseling, and juvenile justice in multicultural environments. His roles have ranged from university teacher, researcher, and consultant to program coordinator, offering his expertise in the public and private sectors. He spearheaded the K-12 substance abuse prevention and intervention services across ACPS. His ability to communicate in English and Spanish enriches his interactions with diverse groups. Integrity underscores his professional standards. Martinez has earned numerous professional awards and recognitions, including being selected by the FBI and the White House for the CACIE program and most recently awarded the children champions award by the City of Alexandria, VA; and serves on the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria City (SAPCA) board.


Jessica Mora, LCSW

Jessica Mora, LCSWJessica Mora is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in NJ. Jessica has over a decade of professional experience addressing interpersonal and gender-based violence with institutions, communities, families, and individuals. Jessica serves as the Clinical Director at Sanar Institute. In this role, Jessica supports Sanar’s Wellness Center's growth while ensuring the implementation of person-centered approaches for the individuals accessing services at Sanar. As a parallel process, Jessica maintains a supportive and trauma-informed environment for staff, individuals impacted by gender-based violence, and community members. In 2023, Jessica Mora joined Rutgers University School of Social Work as a lecturer. Jessica identifies as a woman of color from the lands of South America. Jessica Mora graduated from New Jersey City University (NJCU) in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and History. She graduated with a Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2012.


Jorge Morales-Lopez- MSW, GCDF, OWDS, CBHCMS

Jorge Morales-Lopez- MSW, GCDF, OWDS, CBHCMSSenior Program Operations Manager and Business Development Specialist Jorge Morales-Lopez manages all program operations for the Hurricane Ian Disaster Case Management Program in the State of Florida and assist in the Business Development in the Southeast Region. Jorge, a servant leader at heart, holds over 15 years of leadership experience with expertise in disaster recovery, housing assistance, migrant services, Veteran services, mental and behavioral health, Batterers Intervention and Reentry Programs. Jorge holds a masters of science in Social Work, a Global OWDS-GCDF certification and a State of Florida Certification for Behavioral Health Case Management. With a demonstrated history directing large-scale social services and case management initiatives in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida, he has dedicated his entire career to the Social Services field and is passionate about serving the community.


Luz Miranda, MBA, M E.d.

Luz Miranda, MBA, M E.d.Luz Miranda, MBA | M E.d. Luz is a driven individual with a diverse professional background and over 12 years of professional experience. Her experience includes program and project management, product development, facilitation and supervision. Luz holds a Masters in Business Administration, a Masters in Education, a Certification in Nonprofit Management and Leadership and multiple Agile certifications.



Maria Pineda Jones

Maria Pineda JonesMary Jones, hailing from Urireo, Mexico, now resides in Durham, NC alongside her husband and two children. Growing up with seven siblings under her mother's care, while her father worked hard in Texas, her older brothers had to relocate to the USA to support the family. Mary earned her degree in computer systems engineering and made the move to the USA in 2005. Committed to supporting fellow immigrants, she now leads community engagement initiatives in mental health at El Futuro in North Carolina, which emphasize inclusivity, cultural pride, social connections, and amplifying community voices and leadership. Additionally, she dedicates her time as a volunteer at ISLA-NC, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering Latino youth and their parents through educational and cultural programs.


Mayra Velazquez Rosario, MS, LPC

Mayra Velazquez Rosario, MS, LPCMayra Velazquez Rosario is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Colorado and is bilingual (Spanish/English). Mayra currently works as a Behavioral Health Professional Team Manager for a Federally Qualified Health Center in Boulder Colorado where she works with underserved population and primarily with Spanish Speaking Patients. Born in Puerto Rico, she moved to Colorado 10 years ago to pursue her professional career. Mayra graduated from El Turabo University in Gurabo, P.R. where she obtained her master’s degree of Psychology in Counseling Psychology. She has extensive clinical work in community mental health, including crisis services and integrated behavioral health. She has been in leadership positions for the past seven years coaching other mental health professionals on providing access and quality clinical services to underserved populations. Mayra has a passion for serving and supporting Spanish-speaking families as she advocates for the Latinx community.


Nancy Nava, MPH

Nancy Nava, MPHNancy Nava is the research and evaluation senior manager at Esperanza United. Nancy received her master’s in public health from Georgia State University and has focused her training and work on impacts of social determinants on Latin@ communities. At Esperanza United, she designs, implements, and evaluates programs. She also provides training and technical assistance on research and evaluation practices to Latin@ community-based organizations. Nancy’s research interest includes program evaluation, participatory action research, best practice of strategies for the inclusion of youth with disabilities in all settings, and dissemination of community centered evidence-based practices.


Odalinda Ávila-Triviño, MA, LPC

Odalinda Ávila-Triviño, MA, LPCOdalinda Avila-Trinvo is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who is known for her compassion and cultural sensitivity. Odalinda has dedicated her career to mental health support in Latino communities. She empowers individuals to navigate life's challenges. Odalinda fosters a safe and supportive environment for her clients due to her commitment to excellence and empathy. Her proficiency in English and Spanish allows her to communicate and understand the unique needs of people from different backgrounds. As Odalinda realized her leadership potential, she advanced into leadership roles. Throughout her career as an leader, she has prioritized staff development and mentoring, encouraging others to continually improve. With her strategic thinking and innovative problem-solving abilities, Odalinda has resulted in successful counseling initiatives and improved client outcomes. She is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest research and best practices in the counseling field, ensuring that her team delivers the highest quality of care to those they serve. Overall, Odalinda Avila-Trinvo's passion for mental health, cultural sensitivity, desire to help others and strong leadership skills leave a lasting impression on the lives she touches and the organizations she leads.


Salvador Amezola, CADCII, QMHAI, CGAC-R

Salvador Amezola, CADCII, QMHAI, CGAC-RSalvador is the program director for Programa De Recuperacion De Madras (PRM) the only culturally specific residential program for Latino men in the state of Oregon. PRM is under the umbrella of BestCare Treatment Services. Salvador is currently the director of the annual “Latinos Unidos Conference”, that PRM hosts. The primary focus of the conference is to teach and promote the importance of culturally specific service and is in the process of building a Latino Coalition, to advocate for better services, in treating alcohol and drugs and mental health in the Latino Community. “La union Nos Fortalice.”


Tica Torres, MHA

Tica Torres, MHATica Torres Bolivar is currently the Patient Access Program Manager for Planned Parenthood of Maryland. Tica relocated to Baltimore City in late 2017 from his hometown of Miami, Florida. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Nova Southeastern University and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Tica’s passion is to support the growth and development of the Transgender community in Baltimore City. His vision is to build safe and affirming spaces within the healthcare system aimed at cultural growth regarding the Transgender community. Tica enjoys hiking with his wife and dogs, painting, and playing Rugby with the Baltimore Flamingos. He has over 12 years of experience working in the medical field and currently sits on the Alive MD! Interdisciplinary Advisory Board. Tica also forms part of the Baltimore Healing City Act’s Trauma Informed Care Taskforce. He is an excellent public speaker and regularly engages in community outreach events providing education and advocacy regarding Transgender healthcare. Additionally, as part of the Maryland Transgender Response Team Tica was a co-author of Gender Affirming Care for Transgender and Nonbinary Marylanders; a white paper offering best practices for providing safe, affirming, and appropriate care to Transgender and Nonbinary people.


Vanessa Alarcón, MSW, LCSW, LAC

Vanessa Alarcón, MSW, LCSW, LACVanessa Alarcón (she/ella) is a licensed clinical social worker and licensed addictions counselor in Colorado. She currently serves as a Program Manager at Community Reach Center overseeing two integrated behavioral healthcare offices. Her career aspirations are to build innovative and culturally-informed clinical teams focused on providing quality services to underserved communities. Outside of her employment, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, where she is leading efforts to launch the chapter’s first Hispanic/Latinx Affinity Group. One of the great joys in her life is connecting with her comunidad by crafting engaging seminars and workshops on mental health tailored to the Hispanic/Latinx community. Vanessa is a graduate of Andrews University where she obtained her bachelor of science degree in psychology and master of social work.


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