LEADERSHIP

Cesar Nunez

Co-Executive Director

Cesar first began working with Enlace Chicago as a member of the Board of Directors when the organization was still named the Little Village Community Development Corporation (LVCDC). He joined the staff a few years later, in 2005, as the New Communities Program Organizer. In this role, he supported the implementation of the 2005 Little Village Quality of Life Plan and developed new initiatives such as B-Ball on the Block, which is still being facilitated by a partner organization. He continued to grow within the organization and took on the role of Economic Development Director, overseeing the Housing Resource Center, the Local Industrial Retention Initiative and several local development projects. 

 

Cesar left Enlace in 2010 and became the 22nd Ward Superintendent for the Department of Streets and Sanitation before he was promoted to District Superintendent. He also had the opportunity to manage capital improvement and maintenance projects for Oak Park Residence Corporation's portfolio of buildings and apartments. He rejoined Enlace’s Board of Directors and then, in 2018, he returned in a staff capacity as Director of Organizing. He transitioned into the role of Associate Director in 2020 and now holds the shared role of Co-Executive Director. His extensive experience working with not-for-profit organizations, as well as his ties to and knowledge of Little Village, serve him well in this role.

 

Cesar received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has a certificate in Urban Development from The Great Cities Institute and Chicago Rehab Network at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He most recently participated in the Neighborhood Builders Emerging Leaders 2020 Cohort and the Latino Policy Forum’s Multicultural Leadership Academy 2020 Cohort.

 

Marcela Rodriguez

Co-Executive Director

Marcela, otherwise known as "Marcy," came to Enlace in 2019. She is an accomplished finance, human resources, program and operations manager with an established record of success in stewarding the resources of organizations and institutions focused on education, social services, social justice, economic development, youth employment, community development and community organizing. She has years of experience in leadership positions at other community-based organizations, including Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and The Resurrection Project, located in predominantly Latinx neighborhoods on the southwest side of Chicago. She has a bachelor's degree in Accounting from Roosevelt University and is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration. Marcy was born and raised in Torreon, Coahuila Mexico until the age of 7. She and her family migrated to the United States and settled in Little Village in 1980. Marcy is married with four kids and a granddaughter.

Charles Sergeant

Director of Operations

Charles began working at Enlace in 2010, with the launch of the Safe Passage program at Farragut Career Academy. He was instrumental in developing a strong structure for this program that led to its sustainability and growth – it now boasts over 50 staff and over ten local school partners, and Enlace has been asked to support the development and supervision of Safe Passage programs in other communities across the city. He was hired as Director of Operations in 2019, right before the opening of Enlace’s new office and community center. In this position, he is able to build on his many years of service at Enlace, as well as his almost ten years of experience in the military and in the trades. He has also played the role of Executive Director for the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, which runs a boxing gym and youth program on the border of Little Village and North Lawndale, and is a minister and bible teacher. Charles has a strong belief that the greatest leader is the greatest servant.

Alisha Garcia Flores

Director of Evaluation

Alisha is a youth development veteran with over 15 years of experience developing youth and family support programs as well as leading staff in building quality assurance systems. She is passionate about participatory and asset-based approaches to community development, as well as supporting staff in continuous improvement practices to ensure that high quality services are offered in the community. She is a community advocate who is dedicated to social justice, restorative practices and systemic changes that promote opportunities and advancement of marginalized groups of people.

 

Her experience began in small nonprofits and church outreach ministries in Detroit and Lansing, Michigan, where she provided tailored academic, social-emotional and extra-curricular afterschool programs. Since 2003, she has directed and managed educational programs serving families in Chicago communities such as Little Village, Lawndale, Austin and Englewood. Working in partnership with public and charter schools as well as diverse community stakeholders and funders, she has lead teams in developing holistic community development approaches and high quality evaluation efforts. As an evaluator and researcher, she has also contributed to projects connected to the New Communities Program (LISC), 21st Century Community Learning Programs, and Illinois State Afterschool standards/assessments. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Management from Central Michigan University and a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from University of Illinois at Chicago. She also has certifications in teaching English (TEFL) and in Youth Development (YPQI) as a methods trainer and external assessor.

Lorraine Jones

Director of Finance

Before becoming Enlace’s Director of Finance in 2021, Lorraine had over 40 years of diverse experience in the field. She started her career as a banker at The First National Bank of Chicago and Seaway Bank. She spent over ten years working at the City of Chicago as the Assistant Commissioner of Finance and Administration for the Department of Housing and as the Deputy Commissioner of Finance and Contracts for the Department of Human Services; in these roles, she managed millions of grant dollars and multiple programs focused on affordable housing, homelessness prevention, early childhood education, youth development and family violence. She worked at Heartland Alliance for seven years, during which she played the roles of Controller for programs focused on unaccompanied children, human trafficking, immigrant and refugee placement, workforce development, and juvenile justice. She was also their Director of Compliance and Financial Risk Management, a role which brought her to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. At the American Bar Association and Christian Community Health Center, she managed a number of large government grants. Lorraine received her BSBA in Accounting from Roosevelt University and she is the recipient of the Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award, the Mayor Richard M. Daley Service Award and the Heartland Alliance Leadership Award. She is married and has two children.

Lissette Moreno-Kuri

Director of Community Schools

Lissette came to Enlace in 2021 with over 25 years of experience in the field. She spent 20 years at Logan Square Neighborhood Association, first as a Community Schools Resource Coordinator and later as the Program Director of their community schools initiative, which included five public schools. In addition to supporting Resource Coordinators with program and partnership development, participant recruitment and retention, evaluation and data collection, and budget management, she worked hard to ensure that programming was responsive to the needs of English-language learners and spearheaded a partnership with the City College of Chicago to provide adult education and family literacy programming. She also supported the efforts of Grow Your Own Illinois, which focuses on supporting people of color in becoming public school teachers, where she later became a Program Director. In all of her roles, including as a bilingual teacher, she has advocated for educational equity for immigrant communities and communities of color. Lissette received a BA from Northeastern Illinois University and an MA in Educational Leadership in Higher Education, also from Northeastern. She is a graduate of the Illinois Latino Nonprofit Leadership Academy and received an award for Prestigious Leadership for a Changing World from the Ford Foundation in 2005. In 2014, she co-authored an article with Tammy Oberg De La Garza entitled Building Strong Community Partnerships: Equal Voice and Mutual Benefits, which was published in the Journal of Latinos and Education. She was born in Chicago to Mexican parents, moved with her family to Guadalajara, Jalisco at the age of 12, and moved back to Chicago. She is a wife and mother of three children.

Jessica Cañas

Assistant Director of Education

Jessica’s interests and experience focuses on the conservation of natural areas and the peoples and cultures they sustain, social and environmental justice, and representation of underrepresented racial minority students in higher education. Jessica came to Enlace with almost ten years of experience working directly with students from elementary school to college. She had organized and trained parents and teachers while working with various community-based organizations in Chicago, The Field Museum, Peace Corps Honduras, and the University of Michigan's Center for Engaged Academic Learning and Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach. In pursuit of her passion for increasing minority student representation in STEM disciplines, she spent three years conducting research through the University of Michigan regarding education in engineering and the experiences of underrepresented students in STEM. She first came to Enlace in early 2016 as the College Pipeline Specialist with the Little Village Education Collaborative (LVEC); in this role, she coordinated collaborative initiatives that engaged Little Village parents, students, representatives from education institutions and other key stakeholders in creating systems changes that improve the educational system in Little Village. She supported the launch of new initiatives, including Parent Leaders for College and a STEM-focused summer youth internship, and facilitated policy advocacy and research, including authoring a report entitled “Little Village College Enrollment Report: Where Data Calls for Social Change.” This made her well-suited to transition to become the Postsecondary Manager in 2019; in this role, she coordinated, aligned and expanded postsecondary initiatives across the organization and oversaw the creation of Equity Response Teams that address the impact of the pandemic on postsecondary access and success in Little Village. In 2020, she became the Assistant Director of Education; she continues to advance Enlace’s postsecondary success strategies and reinforce the work of LVEC. Jessica holds a B.S. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Loyola University Chicago and an M.A. in Higher Education, with a concentration in Diversity and Social Justice, from the University of Michigan.

Amanda Benitez

Director of Community Health

Amanda has been supervising health programming at Enlace since 2015. She has over ten years of experience in the field of public health and has managed programs in Little Village since 2012. Her prior experience includes extensive work with immigrant and low-income populations touching on a variety of equity-related issues including chronic disease prevention, women’s health and youth development. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in Community Health Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a Little Village resident.

Jadhira Sanchez

Assistant Director of Community Health

Before coming to Enlace, Jadhira played a variety of roles at non-profits on the southwest side; these include the YMCA’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Program, San Obrero Mission, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción. In addition to working in predominantly Latinx communities, she has experience working with youth who have experienced trauma, people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence survivors and perpetrators, veterans, and people living with disabilities. In the fall of 2020, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, she became Enlace’s Assistant Director of Community Health and supported the creation of a much needed pandemic response team. This team focuses on connecting community members to food, housing, healthcare, mental health services, and COVID testing and vaccination, as well as supporting them with applications for emergency financial assistance for things like rent, mortgage and utility bills. Jadhira grew up in Little Village and has a Masters in Social Work from Dominican University and a Bachelors of Arts in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University.

Jacqueline Herrera

Director of Violence Prevention

Jacqueline began working at Enlace in 2017 when she was hired as a School-Based Counselor at Community Links High School and Farragut Career Academy. In early 2018, she transitioned into the role of Mental Health Program Coordinator, in which she supervised the work of School-Based Counselors, managed school partnerships, and ensured alignment with Enlace’s violence prevention and school-based initiatives. When the Violence Prevention Manager took a leave from the organization, she stepped in as Interim Manager and took leadership during a very difficult time. She was finally hired as Violence Prevention Director at the end of 2018. She has experience as an Early Head Start Home Visitor at El Hogar Del Nino, where she also completed her graduate internship as a Family Support Specialist. She also has volunteer experience with the Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Connections for Abused Women and their Children. Jacqueline holds a Master of Social Work degree from Dominican University and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University. She has also played a leadership role with the Alliance for Student Social Workers.

Jessica Cruz

Violence Prevention Clinical Director

Jessica has been with Enlace since the beginning of 2016, when she was hired as the supervisor of the team of School-Based Counselors. In 2018, she transitioned into the role of Violence Prevention Program Manager to oversee all of Enlace’s counseling programs, including Street-Based Counselors. For a number of years, she supported mental health and social emotional learning initiatives across the organization before taking the newly created role of Violence Prevention Clinical Director in 2022. She was one of the instructors for the bilingual community health worker college certificate program; this program was created thanks to the efforts of representatives from two networks that Enlace convenes – the Little Village CHW peer network and the Little Village Education Collaborative – City Colleges of Chicago, Illinois CHW Association and Illinois Department of Public Health. She also provides psychotherapy through a private practice.

 

​​Before coming to Enlace, she had extensive experience with organizations that focus on mental health and social work; she worked with teen mothers, youth that have experienced trauma and students with special needs. Jessica acquired her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University, where she was very active in student government. She has completed a number of trainings that have developed her ability to respond to domestic violence, child abuse and situations that require specialized first aid. Jessica was born and raised in Little Village.