Our Team


Susana Aranda

Educational Programs and Digital Education Assistant

Originally from Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, I immigrated to Albuquerque, NM with my family 15 years ago. I am CDC certified and I started working at Encuentro as a day care manager. I am currently an educational programs assistant where I have the opportunity to work in the logistics of the implementation of classes, support with the coordination of educational and digital programs. At Encuentro I have had the opportunity to learn more about my community, and to be a reference for resources and information for my community.

[email protected]

Brook Bernini

Economic Opportunities Manager- HHA Program

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.

[email protected]

Fiore Gorvetzian

Leadership Development Manager- HHA Program

I am the Leadership manager 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. 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.

[email protected]

Norma Casas

CCHW- Community Health Worker

Proudly born in the State of Chihuahua, I immigrated to the Land of Enchantment more than 16 years ago accompanied by my family. I have been dedicated to the community for almost 10 years but my work at Encuentro began 9 years ago; first as computer student, then as a supervisor in the childcare area, and then as an administrative assistant. With the experiences and connections I have develope at  Encuentro, I became certified as a Health  Worker almost 5 years ago and since then I have supported more than 500 families in the community helping them navigate the system. Within my role, I am actively involved in many programs that support the well-being of our community while continuing to develop relationships with allies.

[email protected]

Julia Cusatis

Development Director

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 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. Please email me if you are interested in learning more about Encuentro or helping to fuel our mission with your time, talents or treasures. 

[email protected]


Felipe Durán

Educational Programs Assistant

I was born in Guaymas Sonora Mexico on October 5, 1961. I studied a university career with a bachelor’s degree at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, in the beautiful state of Jalisco, majoring with Bachelor of Business Administration. These are the beautiful cities that have seen me grow up in my beautiful country of Mexico. Now the city that houses me is Albuquerque NM in this also beautiful and generous country of the U.S.A. that has given me the opportunity for a better future for me and my family. My position at Encuentro is as  educational assistant. Encuentro, its staff and all the current and past students are like a big family and I feel very happy to be part of . This is my story. Proud of my Mexican roots and proud to share with my countrymen from all over Latin America the same story of courage and desire to excel.

[email protected]

Ilse Grijalva Lastiri

Communications Associates & Tu Voz Digital Coordinator

I migrated from Delicias, Chihuahua and have been residing in Albuquerque for almost 16 years. Throughout this period, I have actively volunteered for various organizations. I have served as a health promoter and consular agent in the past. Currently, I am the Communications Coordinator at Encuentro, responsible for overseeing the community journalism project named “Tu Voz Digital”. My experience in the communication field includes working with radio, social media management, and story development. Apart from my role at Encuentro, I also work as a radio host for a local radio station. At Encuentro, I enjoy the opportunity to enhance my communication skills while serving my community.

[email protected]


Teresa Guevara

Teresa Guevara

Director of Educational Programs

I was born in Sonora, Mx and I came to the United States in 2006 with my 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.  In 2012 I joined Encuentro 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. 

[email protected]

Mayte Lopez

Educational Program Manager - HHA Program

 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. 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.

[email protected]


Rosalina Lopez

Economic Opportunities Coordinator

Hello, I’m originally from Durango, Mexico. I have experience as a Tax preparer and domestic worker. I studied at CNM and Encuentro as a Home Health Aide/Personal Care Attendant and became an HHA independent contractor. I’m also certified as a nutrition coach at Presbyterian. I have taught nutrition workshops at Senior Centers in the city of Albuquerque. I have been a volunteer for several organizations like Roadrunner Food Bank, APS and Encuentro. Currently my position at Encuentro is Economic Opportunities Coordinator, coordinating the internship and EnCasa Care Connections for HHA’s and clients. I’m really grateful to be part of this organization that provides educational opportunities to the community and graduates of the Home Health Aide course. 

[email protected]

Samantha Morales

Home Health & Career Development Director

I am the Home Health & Career Development Director. Originally born in Nicaragua, I immigrated to the U.S. with my family when I was a child. I lived in California for the majority of my life and moved to New York City in 2008. After spending a decade in New York working in the non-profit sector serving older adult and immigrant communities, I moved to New Mexico in 2018. With experience working on health care advocacy issues, I am interested in initiatives that improve the working conditions of the home health aide labor force, and that makes quality long-term care more accessible to immigrant communities. In my role at Encuentro, I work collaboratively to support the Home Health Aid team, and program participants to ensure that the Home Health Aid program continues to serve the immigrant community and older adults in impactful and meaningful ways.

[email protected]

Andrea Plaza

Executive Director

I am proud to be the founding Executive Director of Encuentro.  I’m a 30+ year resident of New Mexico with family roots in Colombia by way of North Carolina. I moved to Albuquerque to pursue graduate studies in Latin American Studies and Community and Regional Planning. My vocation is inspired by my history working with the Latinx immigrant community, specifically with women and families in educational and asset-building programs. My commitment is to promote immigrant rights of as a tool for building social and economic justice and creating strong and equitable communities for all.

[email protected]

Ivan Rodriguez

Finance Administrative Assistant

I graduated from the University of Denver (DU) in June 2022.My studies at the university centered around Mathematics, Spanish, and Computer Science. Currently, I’m the new Finance Administrative Assistant here at Encuentro. My professional experiences have centered around working at nonprofits such as Casa de Paz in Denver, the Latino Cultural Arts Center in Denver (as a Technology Assistant) and at South Valley Academy High School here in ABQ as part of their Tech Team. Growing up and working closely with the Hispanic and Latinx Community, I realized how hard people work to support their families and find their children the best education they can. I’ve always believed that an education is one of the best ways children can help their families, but this can also apply to the parents! I’m honored to be part of this team!

[email protected]

Veronica Salazar

Digital Education Coordinator and Instructor

Born in Mexico City I immigrated to the United States in 2002. On 2003 I joined a group called “La Comunidad Habla”, group of women leaders in which I learned to connect and work with the community, I also gained experience as a recruiter, computer instructor, training the Hispanic community in the search for resources and everything always focused on technology. 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.

[email protected]



Alma Torres

CCHW- Trabajadora de Salud Comunitaria/ Office Administrator

I’m from San Luis Potosí, Mexico and have lived in Albuquerque, NM for over half my life. I started as a student at Encuentro and studied English, computers, GED, and CDC (Certificate for Child Care). I love learning new things in Encuentro and contribute to our community in many levels.



Claudia Medina

Board Member

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.

[email protected]

Guiovanna Aguirre


I am a native New Mexican and grew up in Los Lunas, NM. I received an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico in 2013. I joined Centro Sávila as the Business Operations Manager in November 2014, before transitioning to the Director of Operations in 2017, and I’m now serving as the Finance Director. I provide support, guidance, and leadership to all Centro Sávila staff, student interns, volunteers, and the community. I’m responsible for the organization’s business accountabilities and ensuring that the day-to-day operations at all four locations run smoothly. These responsibilities include strong experience in an administrative capacity, serving the organizations needs in human resources, accounting, budgeting, grant writing and reporting, and program management. I also serve on the Board for La Cosecha C.S.A. and Encuentro and is the Board President for Proyecto Educación, all local nonprofit organizations. Working at Centro Sávila has given me a deep appreciation of how the nonprofit sector strives to improve the quality of life for the communities they serve. 

[email protected]


Martha Hurtado

Board Member

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.

[email protected]

Patricia Telles

Board Member

I am from El Paso, Texas and I come from a family that for generations has worked for voting rights, against economic disparities and for the general betterment of the Latinos on the Border. I have lived and worked in Albuquerque for the past 30 plus years. As a Clinical Director of Counseling at Enlace Comunitario, we served immigrant victims of domestic violence and their children. I help immigration attorneys in providing reports for their clients to prevent family separations and now I am honored to be a board member of Encuentro. I hold a PhD in clinical psychology and have decades focused on making people’s lives more meaningful, joyful and adding laughter.

[email protected]

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.

[email protected]

Shalini Thomas


Hi! I was born in India, grew up in Iowa, and have been in the Southwest most of my adult life, starting when I moved to El Paso, TX in 2009.  I have spent my career working with the immigrant community, from co-founding and organizing with the Comité de Justicia Laboral, a grassroots organization that fought wage theft through community empowerment; to working at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services as an Accredited Representative; to volunteering with Annunciation House, including as travel logistics coordinator for reunified families during the summer of 2018.   I moved to Albuquerque in May 2019. While El Paso will always have my heart, Albuquerque is definitely a close second! I am now a Supervising DOJ Accredited Representative with New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, which has had a strong relationship and partnership with Encuentro since its inception in 2010, and am so happy to be an Encuentro Board member!   Two truths and a lie: I am fluent(ish) in Spanish, I have an MBA.


April Smith

Citizenship and ESL Instructor (Beginner Level)

Bill Ancker

ESL Instructor

Dair Obenshain


Emilia Rivera

Finance Instructor

Melanie Bartholomew

Citizenship and ESL Instructor (Intermediate Level)

Mayte Lopez

Home Health Aide instructor

Veronica Salazar

Digital Education Coordinator and Instructor