Miriam Yupanqui is building a movement to transform East Palo Alto into a place where every resident thrives. A thriving community is one where everyone has a place to call home, a living wage, and the same opportunities for success we see across Highway 101. In her words, “President Obama once said that no one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty. In East Palo Alto, people are working 60 hours plus per week and living in poverty. We are building leaders in our community to change that.”
An East Palo Alto native, Miriam is thrilled to be back in her old stomping grounds. Miriam attended College Track and graduated from Carlmont High School. She received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her M.P.A. from the University of Southern California. Miriam served as a Board Member of Nuestra Casa prior to being hired as the Executive Director. Miriam also has vast experience working in our communities and program evaluation. Before Nuestra Casa, she was a Program Manager at Family Connections in Redwood City. There she developed and implemented their Young Scholars Program. Connect with Miriam on LinkedIn.
Adriana Fernandez Arriaga
Housing and Environmental Justice Specialist
Housing and Environmental Justice Specialist
Adriana Fernandez Arriaga is uplifting and amplifying the voices of our Spanish speaking and immigrant community. “Climate change and the housing crisis hit my community hard, yet we are left out of the brainstorming and decision making meetings.” Not one to shy away from a challenge, Adriana is shifting that paradigm through authentic community engagement. She organizes and empowers the community residents of East Palo Alto, eastern Menlo Park, North Fair Oaks and Redwood City to take ownership of their advocacy abilities and ensure the inclusion of low income and immigrant communities in key discussions and policies. She works closely with our partners to build strong, lasting and mutual support to develop healthy and sustainable communities.
Adriana serves on the Executive Board of the San Mateo County Parks Foundation where she ensures underrepresented, low-income communities have access to and feel safe in our parks so we can all enjoy and care for our parks. She was chosen to be part of the Green Foothill’s Community Advocates Leadership Academy where she is working to amplify the non-traditional sustainability practices of our Latino and immigrant communities of San Mateo County and is an alumni of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley Latino Board Leadership Academy.
Adriana attended Canada College and transferred to the University of California, Davis where she graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management. Connect with Adriana on LinkedIn.
Environmental Justice Programs Manager
Environmental Justice Programs Manager
Roxana Franco wants to change the “business as usual” mindset our community has about environmental quality. “People who live here don’t get that it’s not normal for brown water to come out of your kitchen tap. It’s not normal for your eyes to burn in the shower. I’m teaching my community about hazardous environmental and climate change issues to change that thinking.” Using her intuition and her organizational gifts, Roxana delivers on this promise. She trains community members to become environmental justice leaders in their own neighborhoods. She also manages our Food Distribution program.
She holds a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship from San José State University.
Senior Program Director
Senior Program Director
Community grassroots organizing is in Julio Garcia’s DNA. “I’ve been working with communities for all my life. What better job than to work in the community?” Julio takes his inspiration from his early days as an organizer during Guatemala’s civil war. His work in our local community goes back 25 years when he was part of Comité de Base at St. Francis. He recalls going door-to-door to educate his neighbors about Proposition 187. These days, Julio keeps his ears to the ground to keep us responsive to emerging community needs.
Julio develops, manages, implements, and evaluates Nuestra Casa’s programs and community outreach efforts. Before Nuestra Casa, Julio worked at One East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks Community Center.
Maricela Garcia was born in Michoacan, Mexico, and moved to East Palo Alto when she was three years old. She grew up in the community with her parents, three sisters, and two brothers. She attended Ravenswood District Schools and is a graduate of Eastside College Prep. Maricela continues to support her alma mater as a full-time residential faculty member. As Program Assistant, Maricela supports our Executive Director and program staff to keep us all on track.
Maricela graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2013 with a major in Sociology and a minor in Psychology.
Sam Gaynor grew up outside of Boston, MA. As the son of an immigration attorney, he spent much of his childhood hearing stories of the difficulty many immigrants have acclimating to life in the United States. He subsequently spent time working at the Asian American Civic Association in Boston, leading ESL classes and writing for their newspaper. This experience taught him the enormous value of community-focused programming to make life better for recent immigrants. Sam is now a private equity investor with Altamont Capital Partners, an investment firm in downtown Palo Alto.
Sam believes strongly in building equitable communities. He joined Nuestra Casa’s board in 2018 to improve financial literacy and access to entrepreneurial opportunities within East Palo Alto. To that end, Sam is a member of our Ad Hoc Program Committee. This Committee supports Nuestra Casa staff members’ efforts to build and pilot a business incubator program for members of our community.
Sam earned a B.A. with a double major in Economics and Chinese from Washington University in St. Louis and worked in management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group before joining Altamont Capital in 2011.
Uriel Hernandez grew up in East Palo Alto where he attended Ravenswood District Schools before graduating from Menlo Atherton High School. He attended college in rural Vermont where he studied how spaces and stories fit together. There, he developed a love for easily accessible green spaces for recreation and contemplation. He brought this love back to East Palo Alto through his work at Canopy where he organized community tree plantings and advocated for more green space for three years. Uriel is currently an Arborist at Hortscience. He joined Nuestra Casa’s Board in 2019 to help amplify our environmental justice work. He serves as a member of our Ad Hoc Program Development committee, supporting Nuestra Casa staff members to build and pilot a business incubator program for members of our community.
Uriel’s hobbies still include exploring the bay area in search of unique places, special parks, and public space treasures. His favorite places include the Baylands around East Palo Alto. He dreams of the day when he can bike along the bay through a green corridor from East Palo Alto to San Francisco, or walk through an East Palo Alto covered by a healthy and lush canopy of trees.
Uriel holds a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, where he studied Architecture and History. He is studying to receive a Master of Natural Resources degree. He’s also Chair of the City of East Palo Alto’s Planning Commission.
Kelly Hunt grew up in New Jersey and moved to Redwood City in 2015. She learned first hand about the immigrant experience from her beloved Armenian great-grandma. Kelly’s commitment to the immigrant community and economic equity today is largely shaped by her grandmother’s early years in the United States. She joined the Board in 2016 and serves on the Governance and Fundraising Committees.
Kelly is currently an independent consultant and a former philanthropy executive. Her work experience includes six years at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a Research Officer and nine years at New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) as a Senior Program Director and Chief Program Learning Officer. During her career, Kelly co-founded the first statewide health foundation in New York, starting from the ground up. If you ask her, she’s most proud of the oral health work she co-led in New York that led to the passage of protective legislation for community water fluoridation, a population health intervention highlighted by the CDC as one of the top 10 public health improvements of the 20th century.
Outside of work and Nuestra Casa, Kelly is raising her daughters to be fierce young women. You might find them camping, hiking, skiing, visiting first/second/third cousins, or generally chilling out somewhere super pretty. In her spare time, she is a member of the Latino Community Foundation’s Peninsula Women’s Giving Circle. She holds a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts from Villanova University.
Board Vice Chair
Board Vice Chair
Diana Luis immigrated to East Palo Alto from Oaxaca, Mexico at age 3 with her siblings and parents. Her first job was at EPA CAN DO (a housing development organization in East Palo Alto) where she discovered her passion for community. Growing up in East Palo Alto, she experienced firsthand the inadequate representation and lack of resources, services, and healthcare in the Latino community. Diana joined Nuestra Casa’s Board in 2013 because she wanted to be part of the movement to create positive change in her community. She serves as Vice Chair of the Board.
Diana received her insurance agent license in 2007 and started her career in sales and marketing for insurance companies. She is currently a sales and marketing coordinator at State Farm. She strives to serve as a consistent and evolving role model to her daughter and, through action, pass along her desire to serve others.
Juan Mendez grew up in East Palo Alto, where he attended Ravenswood District Schools before graduating from Phoenix Academy. Mendez joined the Nuestra Casa board in 2020 because of his commitment to issues that affect our community—affordable housing, financial literacy, sustainable communities, and high-quality education. No stranger to nonprofits, Mendez has worked in various roles at One East Palo Alto, Rising Sun Energy Center, and Attitudinal Healing Connection. Mendez firmly believes that nonprofit organizations like Nuestra Casa are the backbone to the success of many cities.
A native of East Palo Alto, Mendez returned to his roots after graduating college. During the past few years, he’s demonstrated a significant commitment to his community by running for City Council and serving as a Planning Commissioner Alternate for the City of East Palo Alto. He’s currently running for Delegate to serve on the Democratic State Central Committee of the California Democratic Party to represent our District.
Mendez is a proud first-generation college graduate from the University of California Berkeley, with a B.S in Legal Studies and a minor in Public Policy. He mentors college students in his spare time, enjoys reading, trips to the beach, and spending time with his family.
Delia Perla has lived in East Palo Alto since 2001 and raised 3 sons. She immigrated to the US from Peru with her mother, a widow, and four siblings. Delia credits these early experiences as inspiring her to volunteer throughout her life with organizations that work with families, youth, and adults navigating economic, citizenship, legal, and education opportunities. She joined the Board of Nuestra Casa in 2019 and served as Chair of the Board and governance committee.
Delia is Regional Strategic Digital Sales Manager at Hearst. During her 13 years of digital media experience, she has put data to work for businesses, entrepreneurs, startups, nonprofits, and major national brands. At Hearst, Delia innovates within the complex challenges of digital marketing by leveraging data insights, human-centered design, and technology.
Before Digital Marketing, Delia had a career in nonprofit management and development. She co-founded an entrepreneurial training program for youth in Seattle, WA, was an Area Director for a Global nonprofit, and served as a Co-Professor for Service Learning courses at Seattle Pacific University, where she was awarded Advisor of the Year. Delia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the School of Social Work in Community Organization and Development at the University of Washington.
Rigo Rosas is an immigrant from Michoacan, Mexico and has resided in California since his arrival at age 12. Rigo joined the Board because he is passionate about increasing culturally and linguistically competent services to Latino families. Moreover, Rigo is committed to improving his leadership and professional development skills to continue to serve as a leader to represent communities in need.
Rigo is an experienced mental health professional committed to serving underprivileged communities in Silicon Valley. In his current role as Senior Program Coordinator at the City of Fremont, Rigo works on ensuring services are provided via a family-centered, strengths-based, needs-driven process designed to stabilize the family unit. Rigo’s work has focused on preventing, reducing, and eliminating the impact of mental health conditions on families in the SF Bay Area.
Rigo is also a 2018 fellow for the New Leader’s Council, the premier leadership institute in the country for progressive leaders. He currently serves on the Executive Board to New Leader’s Council. He is a graduate of the Latino Board Leadership Academy which provided him training to serve on the Board of Nuestra Casa. He is also a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. degree in Psychology. He completed his Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Santa Clara University.
Maria Salamanca immigrated to Orlando, FL, from Colombia at age 7. She has a deep understanding of the immigrant experience and the importance of community support and advocacy. She is passionate about supporting Latinx families and small businesses. Maria joined the Board in 2016 and serves as Board Secretary.
Maria Salamanca is a Principal at Unshackled Ventures, a fund that fills a unique space in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, funding teams with immigrant founders at pre-seed. Maria joined the fund close to its formation in 2015. During her time there, she has been involved in 40+ investments and sees ~1,500 deals a year. In 2018, Maria was the first Latina named Forbes 30 Under 30 for Venture Capital and Business Insiders Under 30 Rising Stars. Her support for the Latinx community also won her the 2017 California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Shark of the Year.
She’s also spent time in the political world. She started her career at FWD.us, a bipartisan political organization focused on immigration and criminal justice reform. The group was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Ron Conway, Reid Hoffman, and other tech leaders. After the 2016 election, she was founding COO at Swing Left and supported Higher Ground Labs with the first-ever political technology landscape.
She attended UC Berkeley and received a double bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Legal Studies. She is a mentor at Year Up, IDEO, Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Founders Institute.
Karina Macias Sandoval
Karina Macias Sandoval immigrated to the United States at the age of 3 from Michoacan, Mexico, to reunite with her parents in East Palo Alto. She was raised between East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, attending local schools. She credits her achievements to the local non-profits who invested countless resources and time to help her develop and is thrilled to be in a position to pay it forward. She joined the Board of Nuestra Casa in 2018 and served on the fundraising committee.
Karina works in recruiting and talent operations at Nova Credit. Although early in her career, before her current role, she interned with various tech and non-profit organizations, including Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, HIP Housing, and Community Legal Services East Palo Alto.
Karina is a first-generation college graduate from Saint Mary’s College of California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.
Jenny Smith grew up in Watsonville, CA where her parents’ experience serving in the community enforced the importance and value of getting involved. Watsonville experiences some similar challenges to East Palo Alto, and the familiarity of these challenges led Jenny to join Nuestra Casa’s board in 2019. Jenny serves on the fundraising committee.
When not working with Nuestra Casa, Jenny is a Senior Analyst at Hover where she uses data to ensure the business is operating as efficiently as possible. Through this work, she can solve interesting problems, work with people she admires, and ultimately, learn.
Jenny graduated from Scripps College with a BA in Organizational Studies and Economics and moved to the Bay Area in 2016.