LIA LEADERSHIP

The famiLIA behind the scenes

Founder Chief Executive Officer

Jose Enriquez Ph.D

Jose is an immigrant that was born in El Salvador and grew up in East L.A. He attributes much of his success to his hard working mother who sacrificed everything to give him and his siblings a better life. He graduated from John Glenn H.S. in L.A. with a full ride scholarship to wrestle at Brigham Young University where he obtained 3 degrees: BA in Secondary Education Spanish, ESL. Masters in Educational Leadership, and a PhD in Educational Leadership. His previous positions include; Coordinator of Title III and Special Programs at the Utah State Office of Education, Director of Diversity for Alpine School District, served 11 years in both Alpine and Provo school districts as an Assistant Principal, and taught Spanish for 3 years prior to that. He served a 2 year service LDS mission in Chicago Illinois. He was appointed a commissioner on volunteerism by Lieutenant Governor Bell’s Utah Commission on Volunteers in 2010, and as a commissioner to the office Multicultural Affairs by Governor Herbert, 2012. Serves on the Board of Directors United Way of Salt Lake and Board of Directors of Intermountain Community Care Foundation and Granite Education Board of Directors .Currently, Jose is living his dream as the full time Executive Director of Latinos in Action (LIA), a non-profit he built from the ground up since 2001, and which officially became a non-profit organization in 2010. LIA is currently implemented over 200 schools across Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, California ,Arizona, Nevada, Florida, NY, and Iowa. LIA’s mission is to empower Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities through culturally responsive social emotional learning , college and career readiness, and leadership. In 2014, LIA was honored as a Bright Spot by the White House Center for Excellence in Hispanic Education. Latinos in Action was recently recognized by Governor Herbert and Envision Utah and given the Common Good Award for Excellence in Educational programming. Jose is married to Jaymilyn Bonnett Enriquez and is the father of 6 children; 4 girls and two boys.
Chief Academic Officer

Caryn Martinez

A product of New York City public schools, Caryn studied Elementary Education and English Language Arts at Hunter College of the City University of New York. After graduating, she followed her dream of giving back to her community by becoming a public school educator in Brooklyn. She continued her teaching career after relocating to Florida. Born to a mother from Puerto Rico and a father from the Dominican Republic, Caryn used her experiences as a bicultural, bilingual Latina in her efforts to reach and encourage today’s youth within the classroom. In 2016, she was recognized by the Florida Department of Education as one of the highest impact teachers in the state, acknowledging that her consistent effect on student growth and learning was among the most statistically-significantly positive in all of Florida. In her Letter of Recognition, Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, wrote, “Whether in a classroom where students arrived already high achieving, or a classroom in which students were underperforming, her efforts provided inspiration and opportunities to young people that would have otherwise been inaccessible.” Ms. Martinez’s career in education spans over sixteen years, where she prepared students for college, career and life at the elementary, middle school, and high school level. She has also supported fellow teachers as a trainer, lead teacher, and/or mentor for almost as long.

Her current interests include reading, watching movies, and spending time with friends and family.

Chief Financial Officer

Monica Budge

Monica immigrated to the United States from Mexico with her family when she was 10 years old, making Texas, California and Utah her home at different times of her life.

She has always been passionate about working with children and teens, and has done so for the past 26 years (in addition to raising her own 5 children).

She has coached beginner and competitive gymnastics (20 years) and worked at Alpine School District for 10 years, helping teens succeed in Junior High and High School.

She has completed 2 years of undergraduate work at Utah Valley University, and plans on completing a 4-year degree in Accounting.

She has 5 children and 6 grandchildren, all of whom live only a few minutes away and are the biggest blessings in her life.

Regional Program Manager | South Florida

Julie Arocha

Julie is a 5th generation Tejana born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Growing up with four sisters and one brother, family was always the foundation that provided her the support and encouragement to further her education. She attended Brigham Young University, where she began working for the Juvenile Justice Department in Utah County and her desire to work with youth was forged.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Julie returned to her home state and pursued working with youth in the criminal justice field in Austin, Texas. As she progressed in her career Julie worked with local State Judges, District Attorneys and Defense Attorneys in a collaborative effort to reduce recidivism and implement rehabilitative measures within the community. Julie also volunteered with various youth organizations, developed professional relationships with local leaders and was selected to attend Austin City Works Academy where she learned about government entities and social programs available for the betterment of her community.

In 2019, Julie and her family moved to South Florida to raise their daughter near its beautiful beaches and palm trees. Julie enjoys being active, spending time with family and is more driven than ever to help our youth.

Regional Program Manager | Central Florida

Linda Torres

Linda was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she lived with her loving parents and animated sisters and brothers. In 1986, she moved to the United States, eventually making Orlando her home. Linda attended the University of Central Florida, majoring in Anthropology and Educational Leadership. During her last year at UCF, she was selected as one of eight National Interns by NALEO, placing her at the Florida Governor’s Office of Hispanic Affairs as a Demographic Researcher. Continuing her interest in research, Linda documented the use of medicinal plants and other traditional healing treatments for her Anthropology Thesis, “Alternative Healing Practices in Rural Puerto Rico”.

After graduating from UCF, Linda focused on improving the lives of young people by working in education and for youth-serving organizations. She was the Education Coordinator at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where she visited schools and even dressed as the Grim Reaper to spread a message of safety on our roads. Linda also worked as the Director of Prevention Services for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, where she trained staff in the implementation of programs such as SMART Moves and SMART Girls.

As an educator, Linda’s experience includes over 20 years and many roles, including Reading, Health and ESOL Teacher, Testing Coordinator, Reading Interventionist, ESOL Compliance Coordinator and Staffing Specialist.
Linda is mother to two young men and three chickens. During her free time, you may find Linda kayaking or practicing shooting sports and archery. She loves to spend time with her family and traveling, especially to places with beautiful bodies of water.

Linda’s favorite quote expresses the importance that she gives to being authentic:
“…Para saber a dónde se va hay que tener primero la voluntad y la determinación de seguir siendo quien se es. De otro modo, el que llega es otro... Quien deja de ser no llega."
Ernesto Ramos Antonini

Regional Program Manager | Utah South

Carlos Cornejo

Carlos Cornejo was born in San Salvador, El Salvador and immigrated to the U.S. as an adolescent. After graduating from high school in Costa Mesa, California, he was awarded a football scholarship to attend BYU, where he studied Latin American Studies and business. Carlos has 23 years of experience in the diamond industry, developing high pressure/high temperature processing technology as well as serving as his company’s primary contact for diamond merchants throughout the world. His career in the diamond industry has provided opportunities to develop one of his passions-experiencing a variety of cultures and learning from each person and each place he travels to.

Carlos’s other passion is for working with youth in education. Prior to joining LIA, he worked as an ESL liaison for Nebo School District, assigned to help at-risk students who are English learners. His work with these students and their families, as well as his own experience with immigration and education, is what drives him to help Latino youth and their families achieve success through high school and beyond. He has served actively in his community by attending city council meetings, translating community notices to improve outreach to the Latino community, and coaching youth sports. Carlos shares his passion for education with his wife Joanna, who is a teacher, and together they enjoy celebrating their Salvadoran and Norwegian cultural heritage with their two sons and two daughters. As a family they love to spend time outdoors, travel, and enjoy local food wherever they go.

Regional Program Manager, Utah Central

Monica Gomez

Monica was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and raised in Winter Park, Florida. After leading her
Crew team as captain, she was recruited to row for Princeton University, where she spent her
four years earning a Bachelor of Arts in Public and International Affairs with a focus on
International Organizations and Global Governance with a certificate in Latin American Studies.

Monica has worked as Residential College Advisor at Princeton University, a Program Lead for
Ivy Camps USA in Singapore, a Research Assistant at Princeton University, and has served as a
Senior Commissioner for a Policy Task Force for the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton
University where she was part of a panel that presented to the United Nations Headquarters in
New York. Monica is half Colombian, half Puerto Rican and speaks Spanish, Mandarin, and
Cantonese. Her personal upbringing and experiences abroad are the foundation for her passion
in understanding individuals’ unique stories and empowering Latino youth to actively engage in a path to happiness and success. Outside of the academic and work environment Monica
enjoys rowing, painting, and baking.

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Regional Program Manager | Utah North

Vanessa Alder

Vanessa grew up in the rich cultural environment of Barcelona, Spain. In her familia, food and quality time spent together are number one, so they spent many weekends traveling around Barcelona visiting different towns and experiencing their unique cuisine, customs, and traditions.

When she was a young teenager, they had the opportunity to live in Brisbane, Australia for a time. She was immersed in Australia’s melting pot of cultures, where she met peers from all over the world and learned to speak English. These experiences coupled with her education gave her the foundational skills and values she has used to succeed in teaching LIA.

Her training and work in the travel industry has also broadened her knowledge. She believes that traveling is one of the best ways to educate yourself, as you not only learn about a country, its people and way of life, but also a lot about yourself while visiting different parts of the world. As they say, “traveling is the best teacher.”

She moved to the States as a young adult and married an American. They have worked to combine their cultures while raising three children who are bilingual and bicultural. They make it a point to incorporate traditions from both cultures in order for them to experience their rich heritage. They have also been able to travel back and forth from Utah to Spain, strengthening their family ties on both sides.

After teaching LIA for six years she has a deeper appreciation and passion for what our mission is: empowering our Latino youth to lead and strengthen our community. Her priority has always been to help students learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Nothing brings her more joy than seeing students get out of their comfort zone, making a difference and realizing their individuality and potential. She’s excited to be a part of this organization where culture, leadership, service and education are the essentials in making this program a success.

Regional Program Manager | Utah Central/Director of Development

Elizabeth Morales

A product of two powerful Mexican immigrant parents with a dream, Elizabeth who also goes by Liz was born in Moroleón Guanajuato, Mexico, and came to the United States at three years old. She is a first-generation college student who graduated from Copper Hills High school and was a product of Latinos In Action. She went on to graduate with her Bachelors in Ethnic Studies and Communications from the University of Utah in 2017.

While there, she worked with former President Pershing as the Presidential Ambassador Director, The Lassonde Entrepreneur Ambassador Program Director, and with Former Associate Vice President of Student Development Kari Ellingson to continue to enhance opportunities for underrepresented first-generation students.

She recently returned home from Colorado, where she completed a Masters in Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University. She previously was the Director of Supporter and Corporate Relations at The Salt Lake Tribune, where she lead the nation’s first nonprofit metropolitan newspaper membership program and all fundraising efforts.

Her goal is to transform spaces for students by providing them with equitable resources that serve their community and other historically marginalized populations. Just like those who have mentored her and helped her persist through school. She aspires to be a mentor to students and teachers working towards increasing college access and retention rates.

Liz loves spending time with her family, being outdoors with her dog Max, and taking any opportunity she has to travel the world.

Director of Communications and Marketing

Kayla Nielsen

Kayla was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and is the oldest of five siblings. She has lived in Hawaii while studying at Brigham Young University, Florida while working on a cruise ship, Argentina while serving an LDS mission, and Utah while studying at LDS Business College.

Kayla currently resides in Lambayeque, Peru with her husband Denis and loves ice cream, indie movies, and ugly clothes.

Regional Program Manager, Central Utah

Valeria Lopez

Valeria Lopez is a first generation college student who graduated from Ben Lomond High School and received her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Weber State University. Val comes from a strong family of immigrants who have emphasized hard work, education and a sense of social responsibility. Val continues in the pursuit of education where she hopes to receive a Masters degree in Higher Education.

Prior to joining LIA, Val has held various positions in education including Student Advocate, District Behavior Interventionist, Youth Court Supervisor and Health/LIA teacher. Her passion for forming positive relationships and connecting with students has only grown stronger over the years particularly in relation to high risk youth and underrepresented communities.

Val believes that the path to success starts with education. She looks forward to working with educators and LIA students as they advocate to help students discover and unleash their full potential. She is excited to be part of a team who shares her passion in empowering Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities through the pursuit of education.

Outside of work, Val loves spending time with family and friends. She loves the outdoors and a good run to Target.

Full Stack Developer/Graphic Designer

Jhonatan Castillo, Alumni

Hi, I’m Jhonatan, a web and graphic designer with 5 plus years of experience based in Utah. I have developed a deep love and appreciation for my culture, which is my number one inspiration. My passion and enthusiasm for my work allows me to create quality eye catching designs as well as clean and well written code. If you can imagine it, I can bring it to life.

I like to always challenge myself and stay on top of different trends and markets thus I choose a variety of areas to work on, the crossover between design and programming has always been of interest to me I hae been lucky enough to work alongside some talented teams on a number of high profile websites.

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