Our Team

STAFF
Crimilda Andrade

Crimilda Andrade

Administrative Assistant

My name is Crimilda Andrade. I am originally from Magdalena de Kino, Sonora and I have a degree in computer science from the Technological Institute of Hermosillo. I am also an immigrant mother of two young dreamers, we came to the United States more than 20 years ago with the desire of a better quality of life. We lived in Arizona for 10 years and in 2010 we made the decision to move to New Mexico, specifically, to  Albuquerque, where we were received with great human warmth for which we are very grateful for. Since we arrived in Albuquerque, my children and I have been involved in supporting different organizations, such as El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, Southwest Organizing Project, and Encuentro among others. I have been working for Encuentro for two years as an Administrative Assistant and recently was given the opportunity to support as a case manager (navigator) in the Pathways program. For me, it is a true privilege to have the satisfaction of being part

Brook Bernini

Brook Bernini

Training and Employment Coordinator

Hello, my name is Brook Bernini and I am originally from Dalton, Massachusetts. After living in Tucson, AZ for 15 years I moved to Albuquerque and joined Encuentro as the Training and Employment Coordinator. In this position, I facilitate the Connecting Harvest to Health senior nutrition course, coordinate an internship program matching home health aides with low-income seniors in our community, and support cooperative development. In the past I have worked in adult and experiential education, as a doula and interpreter, helped run a community farm, and have been involved in grassroots fundraising projects and community organizing. I have a masters degree in Geography with a focus on solidarity economies, and hold a deep commitment to working towards social and economic justice.

 

Fiore Bran Aragón

Fiore Bran Aragón

Leadership Fellow in the Home Health Aide Program

Hello all, my name is Fiore Bran Aragón, and I am the Leadership Fellow in the Home Health Aide Program. I am a proud Central American migrant with Nicaraguan and Salvadoran roots. I came to New Mexico in 2019 to pursue my graduate studies and stayed to work with the Latinx migrant community. I hold a Master’s in Latin American Studies and a postgrad in International Migration Studies and Human Rights. My professional background includes working with returned and deported migrants as a humanitarian officer, educator, and qualitative researcher in Central America and Mexico. I have also collaborated with grassroots and community-based initiatives working on refugee integration and well-being in Costa Rica. In addition to my work at Encuentro, I enjoy practicing and teaching yoga to family and friends. I am very grateful to be part of this team, and my commitment is to contribute to social justice and equity in rights so that migrants have the opportunity to flourish and contribute to their host and origin communities.

Norma Casas

Norma Casas

Pathways Navigator

Norma is Encuentro’s case manager. She was born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico and has been living here for more than 15 years. Her work at Encuentro began 8 years ago  as computer student, then as a childcare provider and supervisor. After that, she had the opportunity to work as an administrator assistant. Later on, Norma became CCHW (Certified Community Health Worker) and thanks to that and her 8 years experience working with the community she is now our Pathways Navigator.  She knows our community and health system better than anyone and she is always willing to help and provide resources to our community.

Julia Cusatis

Julia Cusatis

Development Director

Hello, my name is Julia Cusatis. I am the daughter of Italian and German immigrants and was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I raised my son in North Carolina before moving to New Mexico in January 2019 to join Encuentro’s team as the Director of Development. In my role at Encuentro, I am responsible for fund raising, grant writing, donor relations, and special events. I am passionate about meeting new people, helping to make connections, and building bridges that strengthen Encuentro’s mission and programs. I love working with the Latinx immigrant community, having the opportunity to practice and improve my Spanish-language skills while living in the Land of Enchantment.   I have a Master’s degree in Education and a post graduate certificate in Training and Development. My eclectic 30-year career has past work experience across fields of higher education, hospitality management, experiential learning, and organizational development.  The common denominator has been a commitment to leverage my skills to support equity, inclusion and racial justice.  Please send me an email at julia@encuentronm.org if you are interested in learning more about Encuentro or helping to fuel our mission with your time, talents or treasures. 

Fernando Flores Reyes

Fernando Flores Reyes

Home Health Aide Program Assistant

I was born and partially raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico but I also spent part of my childhood in Michoacán, Mexico. I moved to Albuquerque in 2016 to attend the University of New Mexico, where I am currently studying Biochemistry. One of my most formative professional experiences has been working as a Student Success Leader for El Centro de la Raza, a resource center at UNM. Working with El Centro allowed me to connect with the Albuquerque Latino community, which highly impacted my future goals. Due to this experience, I am pursuing an educational path that will lead to a degree and career in healthcare because my goal is to work in my community and for my community. Currently, I am a Public Ally with Encuentro NM, with a focus on working with the Home Health Aide program. The Home Health Aid industry is currently growing at a high rate and many of our community members are in the process of joining or are already working in the field. One of the main goals Encuentro NM has is to promote dignity and justice in the Home Health Aid industry because of the involvement our community members have in this industry. I am grateful to be part of this organization because they have provided me with the opportunity to keep learning more about my community’s needs and to be part of an amazing team that offers guidance towards a positive future within my community.

 

Ilse Grijalva Lastiri

Ilse Grijalva Lastiri

Communications Manager

My name is Ilse Grijalva, I was born in Cuidad Delicias, Chihuahua and have been living here in Albuquerque for nearly 10 years. During those years, I have been actively involved with many other organizations as a volunteer. I have experience as a health promoter and consular agent. Currently, I’m the Communications Coordinator for Encuentro and am the person in charge of the Encuentro’s community journalism project “Tu Voz Digital”. My experience in the field of communications has been in radio (AM and internet), as well as written media production (magazines), social media management and story development. What I like the most about my position at Encuentro is the opportunity that I have to continue developing my communication skills at the same time that I keep working with my community promoting social justice.

Teresa Guevara

Teresa Guevara

Educational Programs Director

My name is Teresa Guevara and my roots are in Sonora, where I was born, and in Sinaloa, where my son was born. I came to the United States in 2006 with my then-adolescent son. My training and professional experience in Mexico were in language teaching and in 2008 I obtained a master’s degree in TESOL at UNM. Ever since I found out about Encuentro, I dreamed of working here. In 2012 I joined as a Citizenship teacher and soon after as Director of Educational Programs. Encuentro became my second family with whom I have shared many important experiences such as becoming a grandmother in 2013 and graduating from UNM with a Doctorate in Language and Sociocultural Studies in 2019. My origins, my Spanish language and my identity as an immigrant mother, help me understand the challenges of learning a foreign language and of integrating to a new country. For this reason, what I like most about my work is being a witness and part of the powerful leadership of immigrant women and the great potential of education as a tool for collective transformation. In addition to my work at Encuentro, I really enjoy playing Latin American and American folk music with LasOtras.

Iliana Lopez

Iliana Lopez

Educational Programs Coordinator

Hello, my name is Iliana López, I am originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, but I have lived in Albuquerque for more than 15 years. I am very dedicated to my work. I am very happy to be part of Encuentro because it welcomes all people from our community. Encuentro is like a second home for all of us.My journey with Encuentro began in the fall of 2010 as a childcare teacher and later as an administrative assistant. In 2012, I started as coordinator of Educational Programs, focusing on supporting teachers, students and taking care of data processing for these programs.I like my job very much and am very happy to be a part of this organization since my passion is helping people achieve their educational goals and improve their lives. I am very grateful to be a part of this team, and I believe that as long as we are committed to achieving our community’s goals, we can accomplish anything we put our hearts into. 

 

Mayte Lopez

Mayte Lopez

Home Health Care Program Coordinator

My name is Mayte Lopez, I am a queer native Burqueña, first generation Mexican-American. I am currently a student at the University of New Mexico finishing my Bachelors of Science in Biology. I began volunteering at Encuentro when I was in high school ~2011, and began working as a Public Ally in the fall of 2017. I have since transitioned into the role of Home Health Aide Training Program Manager.  As a community leader, I have participated in national campaigns for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, work as an Election Official in Bernalillo County, and volunteer my time with Casa Fortaleza. I am currently participating in the Essential Jobs, Essential Care Steering Committee which is focused on policy change in the direct caregiving sector of NM. My goal with my work is to create a training program that is nationally recognized and replicable, so as to change the narrative around care in our society, and implement dignified work and training models throughout the nation. My dream is to foment leadership in a way that domestic workers not only have a seat at the table, but are also directing the dinner party entirely.

 

Andrea Plaza

Andrea Plaza

Executive Director

Hello friends, my name is Andrea Plaza and I am the Executive Director and founder of this wonderful organization called Encuentro. I am a mother of two, born in North Carolina with proud Colombian roots. I began my studies at the University of North Carolina but 25 years ago moved to New Mexico, a state in which I put down roots, built my home and moved not only to do my graduate studies in Latin American Studies and Community and Regional Planning, but also, to live a different cultural experience. Living here plus my sense of belonging coming from an immigrant family was what made me realize all that I had to offer to our community. My professional background includes working with immigrant women in the field of microenterprise development and educational and asset building programs for immigrant families. My commitment is with the community, that is why one of my main missions is to promote the rights of immigrants as a tool to build social and economic justice and thus create strong and equitable communities for all.

Veronica Salazar

Veronica Salazar

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES INSTRUCTOR

My name is Verónica Salazar, I was born in Mexico City where I graduated as a Systems Analyst Programmer. I immigrated to the United States in 2002. The following year I attended a computer class and joined a group called “La Comunidad Habla”, which was a group of immigrant women leaders of the community in which I learned a lot and gained a lot of personal and professional experience for participating in what happens in my community. Based on the experience acquired as a recruiter, computer instructor, training the Hispanic community in the search for health resources, social justice and employment skills, always in combination with technology, I obtained different contracts with various organizations. In turn, I participated in a computer repair class (software and hardware). From 2010 to the present I have worked at Encuentro NM, as a Computer Instructor teaching classes focusing on digital skills. I am also Education programs Assistant and my work is focused on the processes of the classes and being in direct contact with all students. I believe in collective transformation breaking down the barriers of technology and my goal is to build and learn more on a personal and professional level to continue helping my community.

 

Childcare

Susana Aranda

Susana Aranda

Childcare Services Coordinator

I was born in Juarez, Chihuahua and have been living in Albuquerque for the past 14 years. I have my CDC certificate and associates classes. I have at the daycare at Encuentro since it began. Here I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my know my community, the resources it has to offer, and it has given me the chance to better myself at working with kids. I like working with kids, teaching them and learning from them.

Josefina Gallardo

Josefina Gallardo

Hello, my name is Josefina Gallardo. I’m 47 years old. I’m from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and migrated to Albuquerque in 2003. I started doing volunteer work on many organizations first of all, to inform myself and then to inform my people  about all the issues that affect us as a community. I’m currently an active member of El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos as well as part of the community journalism project, Tu Voz Digital of Encuentro. I feel very proud of being part of this amazing organization as child care teacher.

Fermina Lopez

Fermina Lopez

Childcare Teacher

I have worked at Encuentro since it started. Currently, I work in its Childcare Services. I finished its Childcare Education and I’m taking classes for my Bachelor’s Degree.            I was inclined towards an educational branch since I was in 5th grade when I was placed to help the teacher with 1st grade children. I told myself I wanted to become a teacher when adult. Taking these classes has helped me understand children’s attitudes better. I am grateful to Encuentro and children’s parents for giving me the opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

 

Enriqueta Lucero

Enriqueta Lucero

Childcare Teacher

I am happy and satisfied to work in Encuentro in its Childcare services. I have my certification in childcare and I am working in obtaining my Associate degree. Just as we adults teach many things to children, we need to learn much from them.  I was born in Juarez, Mexico, and have lived in Albuquerque for twenty years. I want to contribute as much as I can to my community with my childcare skills. I love children and my favorite movie is “The Little Mermaid”.

 

Alma Torres

Alma Torres

My name is Alma Torres. I have lived more than half of my life in Albuquerque, NM. I started as a student at Encuentro taking English, Computer and GED classes. I also completed my CDC (Certificate for Child Care). I like to learn new things  about child development. I feel very proud of being part of Encuentro; first as a student, then as a volunteer and now as child care teacher. It is a great opportunity for me to contribute to my community and especially to learn from all these wonderful people who support and serve our community with passion.

Board
Martha Hurtado

Martha Hurtado

Hello, my name is Martha Hurtado. I am originally from Lerdo, Durango, and am now based in Albuquerque, N.M. I immigrated to the US more than 40 years ago. I am a woman who has worked all her life to raise her 6 children. Currently, I work as a home health caregiver. My journey with Encuentro began 4 years ago when I started with English classes with the teacher Queta. Later I took computer classes with the teacher Veronica and I have not stopped getting involved by attending all Encuentro events, being a volunteer, recruiting new students and motivating my colleagues to continue with their education. I am currently serving as a leader within the Board of Directors that I joined a little over a year ago. There I continue to learn and contribute ideas to make the organization even better. I feel very happy and proud to be part of Encuentro; a place where I not only learn but also have a family, a space where my voice is heard and where I feel empowered.

Claudia Medina

Claudia Medina

Treasurer

Claudia is the Director of the University of New Mexico, Community Health Worker Initiatives (CHWI). In that capacity, she has developed, piloted and evaluated projects and tools aimed at integrating Community Health Workers (CHW’s) into the workforce. Before working for UNM, Claudia was the co-founder and executive director for 14 years of Enlace Comunitario (EC), an Albuquerque non-profit serving Latino immigrant victims of domestic violence and engaging in community development efforts. Ms. Medina has a Law Degree, an M.A. in Family Studies and an M.A. in Latin American Studies with a concentration in Community Planning.

Sandra Ortsman

Sandra Ortsman

Board President

Sandra Ortsman has over a decade of experience working in nonprofit organizations. Until January of 2015, Ortsman was the Associate Director and Director of Planning, Development and Evaluation for Enlace Comunitario, a social justice domestic violence agency working to end domestic violence and promote healthy families in the Latino immigrant community in New Mexico. Her work has focused on developing, securing funding for and evaluating programs. Ms. Ortsman has created and implemented development plans for a variety of nonprofits. She is a Community Planner who is actively engaged in her community. Ms. Ortsman serves on the board of Encuentro, an immigrant rights community organization. She recently began her own consulting company to help social justice and social service nonprofits in New Mexico and nationally. Ms. Ortsman is also mom to an amazing toddler boy and baby girl.

Iusti Remer-Thamert

Iusti Remer-Thamert

Board Secretary

Iusti Remer-Thamert is an Albuquerque native with a special love for Latin America. He is the Executive Director of the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, connecting migrants in crisis to community services and support, as well as joining faith communities, educational opportunities, and sacred texts. As a former Fulbright-García Robles Student Fellow to Mexico, Justin spearheaded the logistics to bring a Mexican theater company to the United States. The company presented in Albuquerque at UNM and Encuentro, which sparked his initial interest in Encuentro. Justin seeks to merge art, culture and community vitality. Encuentro does all these things through its educational work, making Justin ever so happy to serve on the Board.

Abel Valenzuela

Abel Valenzuela

Board Member

My name is Abel Valenzuela and I am from Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua. I came to Albuuquerque, NM. 13 years ago to give my children a better future. By that time, I started to participate in the community by taking community workshops such as “Paternidad con Cariño” with the PBJ Family Services Organization, “Entre amigos” and “Padres en Acción” with Enlace Comunitario. I also got involved as a volunteer in a Day Care and I helped with some domestic violence workshops. I was also an Encuentro student for 3 years. I really like working for my community and be able to change lives.

Selene Vences-Ortiz

Selene Vences-Ortiz

Board Member

Selene Vences-Ortiz is a Senior Academic Advisor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico. As an advisor and undocu taskforce co-chair she is passionate about the inclusion of undocumented students in graduation preparation programs, scholarships, and internships. She is involved with Encuentro because she believes that adult education and career development are powerful tools to building stronger families in New Mexico.

Instructors
Bill Ancker

Bill Ancker

ESL Instructor
Felipe Guevara

Felipe Guevara

Computer Instructor
Queta Lindenberg

Queta Lindenberg

ESL Instructor
Barbara Lopez

Barbara Lopez

Financial Education Instructor
Veronica Salazar

Veronica Salazar

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES INSTRUCTOR