Staff and Board

Staff

El Futuro has recruited an expert team of dedicated clinicians. El Futuro’s bilingual staff provides culturally appropriate care in a professional environment, where clients are treated with dignity and respect.

Mariana Abraham

Clinic Manager, 919-688-7101 ext 649

Mariana Abraham

Mariana came to the US from Costa Rica ten years ago. This makes her the only Costa Rican on our staff. When she heard of the opportunity to work at El Futuro, she jumped at the chance, thinking “This is what I was thinking ever since coming to the US but I didn’t know how to do it!” Mariana speaks with gentleness and kindness as she welcomes people who come to El Futuro. In her spare time away from El Futuro she enjoys drawing, photography and walking with her family in nature.

Shifra Afik

Clinical Project Manager for Groups Programs

Shifra Afik

Clinical Project Manager for Groups Programs

Shifra grew up in Durham and Marietta, GA, where she studied Spanish throughout middle and high school. She went to college at University of Maryland and stayed in Maryland for a few years before moving back to North Carolina. She taught ESL for five years and is excited to continue working with the local immigrant community without having to grade papers or explain English grammar! She enjoys playing volleyball, hiking in the woods, and singing Disney songs with her baby daughter.

Sabrina Aguilar-Simon, MS

Clinical Project Manager & Case Manager

Sabrina Aguilar-Simon, MS

Sabrina grew up in Ohio and lived in Spain during college and in Mexico after college. She received her Bachelors from the College of Wooster and her Masters from UNC-Chapel Hill. Sabrina worked for over a decade serving the Latinx community in Orange County, NC, managing and implementing a children’s resource coordination program. After seeing a great need for bilingual speech-language services in the area, she obtained a Masters in speech-language pathology and spent close to a half-decade working as a bilingual clinical speech-language therapist. She came to work at El Futuro to return to her passion for grassroots non-profit work with the local Latinx community and to support the organization’s outstanding mission. Sabrina enjoys crossword puzzles, tandem-biking, nature hikes, and meditation.

Robert Alcantara

TeleHealth Clinical Coordinator, (919) 688-7101 ext 679

Robert Alcantara

Robert was born and raised in Queens, NY. He served in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During his enlistment, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009. He earned a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Penn State in 2014.

Robert has experience working with nonprofits and he hopes to use his extensive experience in technology and logistics to help grow the TeleHealth program.

In his free time, Robert enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, reading, watching movies, and spending time with his wife.

Melissa Amador

Outpatient Therapist Ext: 693

Melissa Amador

Melissa grew up here in Durham after moving from Houston, TX when she was 8 years old. She received her Bachelor’s of Art in psychology with a double minor in Spanish and social work from Appalachian State University and her Master’s of Social Work from NC State University. When she discovered her passion for social work, Melissa knew that she wanted to work with the Latinx community. She wants to play a significant role in erasing the stigma of mental health in the community and wants to work with individuals and families on their journey to grow and learn. Melissa’s hobbies revolve around reading books and sharing her love of reading with others on her Instagram account solely dedicated to books. Melissa also enjoys spending quality time with her family, watching movies and listening to true crime podcasts.

Meury Arango-Perez

Clinical Assistant

Meury Arango-Perez

Clinic Assistant

She was born in Honduras, San Pedro Sula. She came to the US when she was just 8 years old. She was raised and lived major of her young adult life in the Sunshine State Miami, Florida. When she turned 18 yrs she decided to move to California with no family, just a bag full of hope and eagerness to explore new things. Then, she worked as a nanny for a beautiful family for 3 yrs and they relocated to Virginia, Fairfax so she decided to come along with them.  She met her husband and now they have 3 beautiful girls together. Meury is a fighter! she survived cancer 6 years ago after 22 rounds of chemotherapy, she says “I learn and gain so much compassion for humanity thru this experience with cancer, I want to help and found myself working as intake coordinator where I screen all their new patient to get them to see therapist or psychiatrist.” She came to El Futuro for the same motivation, to help my Latino community.

Christa Atkinson MSW, LCSW, E-RYT

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 628

Christa Atkinson, MSW, LCSW, E-RYT

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 628

Christa has lived many places including Minnesota, Colorado, Manhattan, Costa Rica and Chile but has now lived in North Carolina the longest and calls it home. Christa has been a clinician for over 10 years and brings her awareness as a yoga instructor to her work with clients. She specializes in working with young children, adolescents and families with trauma, abuse, anxiety and depression. She has worked with court-involved youth in juvenile justice, traumatized and behaviorally challenged adolescents in a residential treatment center, and as the lead Clinical Social Worker in a Robert Wood Johnson funded program targeting mental health for Latinos in Durham’s elementary schools. She received her BA in Durango, Colorado and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill. At El Futuro Christa has lead parenting classes, groups for teens and currently leads a weekly MBSR class in Spanish. When not working, you might see Christa practicing or teaching yoga, dancing, or out and about with her kids…and sometimes all of these things at the same time.

 

Kerry Brock

Director of Advancement and Strategy, (919) 688-7101 ext 632

Kerry Brock

Kerry was born and raised in a small town in East Tennessee, where she learned to appreciate the free feeling of running through pastures and wading in creeks. She developed a passion for working with underserved populations while in high school, which ultimately led her to earn a BA in Sociology from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and then a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University – Bloomington. Over the last 15 years, she has had the opportunity to support the fundraising efforts of a variety of nonprofits serving diverse populations and needs, from Native American education in South Dakota to community health clinics in Chicago, and has been extremely fortunate to work with phenomenal colleagues at every step along the way. She is excited to continue this tradition with El Futuro, with a keen interest in supporting the mental health needs of our community. When Kerry isn’t at El Futuro, she can be found playing with her kids, watching The Great British Baking Show or UK Basketball, struggling through CrossFit, or reading.

Xochitl Cahua

Executive assistant, (919) 688-7101

Xochitl Cahua

Xochitl joined us two years ago as a Partners for Youth Opportunity intern, where she first heard about El Futuro. Beginning as a volunteer, Xochitl’s role at El Futuro has grown to Executive Assistant. She was born and raised in Durham to Mexican parents and currently attends Durham Technical Community College for her associate degree in Science. Xochitl is interested in the medical field and is considering a career in audiology or — like our Executive Director, Luke — psychiatry. When not studying (which seems like her biggest hobby lately!) Xochitl loves spending lots of time with her family and enjoying art and food.

Brenda Castañeda

TeleHealth Administrative Assistant 919-788-6101 ext 688

Brenda Castañeda

Brenda was born in Carrboro, NC and grew up in Mebane, where she lived until 2 years ago when she moved to Durham with her husband. She worked at UNC Health for 4 years as a Medical Spanish Interpreter. This is where she fell in love with helping the Latinx community bridge the gap of the language barrier in healthcare. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she witnessed the increased need for mental health services and her interest to work in this field grew while working as the primary interpreter in psychiatric units in the hospital. When she’s not working, Brenda likes to spend time with her 1 year old son, Adrian, listen to true crime podcasts, watch true crime shows on Netflix, and go for long walks.

Estefania Castro

TECS Project Manager

Estefania Castro

Estefania was born in Veracruz, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S in 1997. She is a proud graduate of the public-school system and received dual degrees in Communication (BA) and Plant Biology (BS) from N.C. State University. Estefania was drawn to El Futuro because the work allows her to be in community with other Latinx immigrants while pushing to advance mental health access. Prior to joining El Futuro, she worked in domestic and sexual violence advocacy and is an ardent advocate for survivors and their families. Outside of work, Estefania likes running, solving word puzzles, taking long walks with her dog, Franny, gardening, and cooking with her husband.

Mary Coffman

Advancement Manager

Mary Coffman

Mary grew up in Durham back when downtown still smelled like sweet tobacco. She was raised in a social activist home which is where she originally got involved with the immigrant communities arriving to North Carolina. She has a degree in English Literature and Spanish Area Studies from Kenyon College and a Master’s degree in International Relations and Peace Studies as a Rotary World Peace Fellow. She has 15 years of experience supporting the missions of NGOs such as TeenSmart International, Catholic Charities, UNESCO, and the Latin American Youth Center. She is passionate about ensuring health and well-being for all communities and has supported families as a doula and childbirth educator. Mary and her husband have lived and traveled in many different countries, but now split time between Durham and Costa Rica with their three children.

Francisco Contreras, LCSWA, CADC

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 680

Francisco Contreras, LCSWA, CADC

Francisco had the privilege to grew up in an altruistic household in The Dominican Republic. His father was a community leader and always exhibited genuine concern for the welfare of others. As the mayor of their hometown, during his political career, his father often put the needs of others and that of society first. He was very influential for Francisco and his siblings, and his legacy of promoting social welfare became a moral goal for his family. It is within this context that Francisco feels called to be compassionate and loving with people. Over the years, he has been involved in many social justice issues that have confirmed his interest in social work. Much of his professional experience has included responsibilities such as case management and community health education, centered upon improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations. While living in New York, Francisco finished the social work program at New York University and worked as a clinical counselor in the field of substance use. It was a privilege to start his career in a city like New York, but he permanently relocated to Durham in March with his wife and daughter to be closer to family. One of the key issues facing the Latino community is the lack of culturally responsive mental health services, and he is very excited to participate in El Futuro’s effort to help fulfill this need.

Cierra Cook

Consultation & Technical Assistance Project Manager

Cierra Cook

Cierra was born and raised in Michigan and moved to North Carolina in 2020. She received her bachelor’s degree in International Business and Spanish and her master’s degree in English, both from Central Michigan University. She completed part of her undergraduate studies in Alicante, Spain to improve her Spanish language skills. Between her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Cierra also spent time teaching English in Madrid, Spain. Prior to joining El Futuro, she worked with organizations across North Carolina to promote and improve access to food for underserved communities. Cierra is passionate about equitable access to basic human needs, including mental health support. She is thrilled to join El Futuro in serving the Latinx community in her new home state. Outside of work, Cierra enjoys reading, writing fiction, and any kind of outdoor activity, especially hiking and backpacking.

Gisele Correia

Access Coordinator, (919) 688-7101 ext 605

Gisele Correia

Gisele grew up in Curitiba, Brazil and has always been involved with the arts. Before coming to the U.S. she lived in Ontario, Canada. Interestingly, she learned Spanish in Canada! Gisele currently works at El Futuro as an Access Coordinator serving new patients from the Latino community in Durham. She also serves as part of different groups at El Futuro – Clinical Operations, Las Increibles (Administration), La Mesita Network (Learning Cohort Pilot 2 ), and the ERT ( Emergency Response Team). She loves writing, meditation, flowers and spending time outside in her garden after a fulfilling day. She is a cat lover, having two at home and one feral that splits his meals with a raccoon. She loves her husband and daughters Bruna and Camila, family, and friends. Gisele’s quotes – “Everything gets better when you sit in front of the Ocean, where the horizon looms before you and the sky touches the water – The best picture of Harmony” // “Beauty is anything that you pay your attention, only look at timelessly.”

Courtney Crawford, MSW, LCSW

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 623

Courtney Crawford, MSW, LCSW

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 623

Originally from California, Courtney began learning Spanish during her time pursuing her undergraduate degree at UCLA. Upon graduation, Courtney moved to Argentina, where she spent seven years working with university students and helping to develop projects to benefit rural Andean communities. During her time in Argentina, Courtney’s interest in mental health and social advocacy grew. Relocating from South America to the American South, Courtney obtained a Masters’s degree in Social Work from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has been part of the El Futuro team since 2013 and is grateful for the time that she is able to spend with clients and colleagues as a therapist and a clinical supervisor. With advanced training in treating trauma in children and adults, she serves clients who are facing many different difficulties. She has described her time with clients (and the trust that they give her) as a unique gift, one that impacts and influences her every day. Courtney’s favorite hobby is exploring, particularly when mountains are involved.

Hayley Cruz

AmeriCorps Community Engagement and Garden Coordinator

Hayley Cruz

She grew up in Cataula, Georgia, and went to college at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. She studied Spanish and Pre-medicine. It was a wonderful experience because she had the opportunity to study Latin American culture and familiarize herself with Spanish literature. She completed a 6-week long medical internship in Guatemala in 2019, which has definitely been my most formative experience. She graduated undergrad and has been accepted into West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, to start studying in 2022. The reason she is at El Futuro is that she was looking for an experience during her gap year that would prepare me professionally and personally for my future career as a physician. Her goal is to serve as a primary care physician to a primarily Hispanic/Latinx community in a rural setting. This experience serving AmeriCorps is perfect for her because she gets to learn more about how to better serve this population while also learning about community outreach and mental health.

Hayley loves to read, cook with her husband, spend time outdoors, and crochet every now and again. Her biggest hobby is playing with her 9 month-old Great Pyrenees, Lola. She enjoys reading short stories in Spanish, as I believe they help her improve her grammar. She really likes Sebastian Yatra, the Colombian singer. Her husband and she danced their first dance to one of his songs.

Mary Dominguez

Authorization Specialist, (919) 688-7101 ext 608

Mary Dominguez

Mary is from from Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. After she got her degree in International Relations from Universidad Central de Venezuela, she worked in the Department of International Affairs of Venezuela as Director’s Assistant in “Instituto de Altos estudios Diplomáticos Pedro Gual.” Here in the USA, she was a GED instructor in Spanish for 7 years at Durham Tech and also worked as a bilingual assistant manager in residential business for almost 7 years in the RTP area. Mary’s love for helping the Hispanic community brought her to El Futuro. Her cheerful personality and work ethic make her an asset to our organization. In her free time she enjoys zumba, running and spending time with friends.

Dennis Duke, LCSWA

TeleBehavioral Health Therapist Ext 689

Dennis Duke, LCSWA

Dennis grew up in El Salvador and moved to the US when he was 15 years old. He went to school at NC State University, where he earned a Bachelors and a Masters degree in social work. Dennis served 4 years in the Marine Corps and 3 years in the California National Guard, where he served a tour in Iraq. He has been working as a School Social Worker in Lee County for the past seven years and works part-time as an ESL instructor at a local community college. Dennis comes to El Futuro with an interest to serve the Latinx community and to provide cultural-appropriate services. In his free time, he likes to watch sports on TV, spend time with his family and pets, and woodworking.

Yessica Elles

Clinical Assistant, (919) 688-7101 ext 700

Yessica Elles

Yessica Elles is from Bogotá, Colombia and joins us as a clinical assistant at our Siler City and Durham offices. She studied Educational Psychology at Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in Bogotá and is thinking about a career as a mental health practitioner. In Colombia, she was going to pursue a Masters in Neuropsychology, but now is thinking about going into the field of Social Work.

She first heard about El Futuro from a family friend and is excited to be able to work somewhere that shares her mission and professional goals where she can keep learning!

In her free time, Yessica likes to watch movies, spend time with friends and her husband, and hangout at the lake paddleboarding and swimming!

Kiara Faucette

Clinic Manager, 919-688-7101 ext 705

Kiara Faucette

Kiara was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Chapel Hill when she was in her early teens. She graduated from UNC Greensboro in 2018 with a degree in Psychology and is currently working on her Masters in Clinical Psychology. Having a parent working in the psychology field, she was always exposed to psychology from an early age and therefore sparked her interest in pursuing a career in it as well. Besides her interest in psychology, Kiara is also a lover of animals and has experience caring for all types— including snakes and frogs!

Rachel Galanter

Technical Assistance and Consultation Program Lead

Rachel Galanter

Rachel grew up in the United States and lived in Chicago, New Haven, Buffalo, Madison (Wisconsin), New York and Seattle before she settled in Durham in 1996. As a child, in addition to her other moves, she twice lived abroad and was immersed in a foreign school system, language, culture and community. Rachel learned Spanish as an adult and developed fluency as a foster parent to a child who was a recent immigrant from Mexico and spoke no English. From her time as a foster parent Rachel added two daughters—and now four grandchildren—to her family. Rachel has a Bachelors in Psychology from Columbia University and a Masters in Public Health focused on Maternal and Child Health from UNC in Chapel Hill. She has over 25 years of experience with supporting children, youth, and families. She has used Motivational Interviewing and the Community Resiliency Model on top of evidence based parenting coaching models to help families address barriers to helping their children thrive. A certified trainer by the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers, she has provided training and coaching to professionals on client engagement, cultivating resilience, cultural awareness, cross cultural communication, coaching, and implementation of best practices to help other agencies in meeting clients where they are and empowering them to achieve their goals.

Dennise Guerra, MSW, LCSWA

Outpatient Therapist

Dennise Guerra, MSW, LCSWA

Denisse Guerra was born on the Mexican side of the border with Texas. After receiving her bachelors in psychology from Meredith College, she served the Latinx community in various roles for over a decade. After seeing the need for Spanish-speaking, bicultural therapists she decided to go back to school and received her MSW from Chapel Hill University in 2021. In therapy, Dennise uses a holistic approach which allows her to look at the whole person. She considers the psychological, physical, and cultural aspects of a person’s life as they each play a vital role in shaping their world. Dennise specializes in helping people through depression, anxiety, substance use, and life transitions. She also gets to help families of children diagnosed with ADHD better navigate school and family life. Dennise views her clients as experts of their own lives and collaborates with them to delineate an authentic & desirable life they want to show up for every day. She uses a variety of therapeutic modalities, favoring psychoeducation as educating the Latinx community about mental health is one of her biggest passions. Dennise loves walking her dog, riding her bike, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.

Molly Hayes, MEd, LCMHCS

Director of Clinical Enhancement Services, (919) 688-7101 ext 614

Molly Hayes, MEd, LCMHCS

Molly lived in the Dominican Republic for several years as a child, but is native to Asheville, North Carolina. She has degrees from rival North Carolina universities: UNC-Chapel Hill (BA in International Studies) and North Carolina State University (Master’s in Counselor Education with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling). Molly has been connected with El Futuro since it’s inception when she worked as a volunteer along with other caring and dedicated people to help bring the dream of El Futuro alive. In 2011 she joined El Futuro as a full-time clinical counselor. In counseling with her clients she uses her training in attachment based therapies, person-centered therapies, trauma processing therapies and mindfulness based practices to help facilitate healing and growth. Molly also has advanced training in clinical supervision and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPCS). She provides clinical supervision and guidance and is also part of the programming and administrative team at El Futuro. She loves the diverse and creative ways she is able to bring to the mission of El Futuro to life through the various roles she fills. When not at El Futuro, Molly enjoys exploring food, culture and the outdoors with her husband, taking movement classes at the YMCA, cooking and eating healthy food and getting lost in a great book.

Mary Hondermann

Communications Manager, (919) 688-7101 ext 684

Mary Hondermann

Mary grew up in Medellin, Colombia and has a degree in Advertising and Graphic Communications from Universidad de Medellin and a Masters in Marketing Management from Universidad Bolivariana. She has always liked being creative and seeing the world with different eyes. Mary has over seven years’ experience working in communications and marketing for beverage and retail corporations in Colombia. Mary loves working at El Futuro, because it allows her to meet immigrant people like herself, with similar sentiments and hopes, and it motivates her to help other Latinos through her work.

Mary Jones

Clinical Project Manager, 919-688-7101 ext 661

Mary Jones

Mary Jones is from Urireo in Salvatierra, Guanajuato and moved to the United States in 2005 (December 12, to be exact). The first time she left her small hometown was to attend university at Instituto Tecnológico de Celaya, where she graduated with a degree in computer systems engineering. After arriving in the U.S., Mary was touched to see that she was still surrounded by all her people — she felt at home. She decided she wanted to do everything she could to help the immigrant community here, because not only had she grown up hearing about all the struggles immigrants faced, but she herself then experienced how hard it was to adjust after immigrating. At her previous job at Orange County Head Start — Early Head Start as an ERSEA (Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance) Coordinator, Mary focused for 11 years on being in touch with families, working with community agencies, coordinating referrals and making sure the program met all performance standards. Mary enjoys spending time with her husband, 11 year-old son, and 8-year-old daughter in nature; keeping in touch with her mom; volunteering at church; and reading.

Heather Ladov

Clinical Services Manager ext: 691

Heather Ladov

Heather joined the El Futuro team in August 2021 as the new Clinic Services Manager. Heather recently relocated from Oakland, CA where she worked as an intern, clinician and supervisor for the past 17 years at La Clinica de la Raza Mental Health Services. Heather’s focus is on access to health resources for Latinx folks. Heather is an avid reader, and when not working spends her time following her three kids around to their various activities.

Madison McNair

Advancement Associate, 919-688-7101

Madison McNair

Madi was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Exercise Science. She took Spanish classes in high school, but really learned a majority of her Spanish from an internship in Ecuador where she worked for a year with an NGO. She considers herself to be at a beginner level but enjoys hearing the language and learning new words. She is excited to join us at El Futuro and feels El Futuro is a perfect blend of her past experiences in nonprofit and administrative work with the added bonus of allowing her to become more involved with her local community.

She enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and camping. She also loves to be creative with baking, crochet, knitting, and sewing.

Angie Mejia

Special Project Coordinator

Angie Mejía

Special Project Coordinator

Angie was born in La Ceiba, Honduras, and moved to Durham, NC when she was 4 years old. Angie went to Saint Augustine’s University for her undergrad and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in December of 2019. Over the past 8 years, she has worked with youth on bringing awareness to health and wellness topics that affect their daily life. She also worked as a community health worker where she enjoyed her time getting to connect with different community members and leaders. Angie started as a volunteer at El Futuro in June 2021 in the green space and she is excited to continue being part of the El Futuro familia in a new role. She enjoys spending time with her dog Max, nature walks, and trying new food places. Her favorite book is The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare and she loves the song “Bendita Tu Luz” by Maná.

Jaeleen Mendoza

Project and Clinical Assistant

Jaeleen Mendoza

Jaeleen was born in Santa Ana, California but grew in a small town outside of Winston Salem and went to college at North Carolina State University where she majored in Communication Media and International Studies with a concentration in Global Sustainability and Development. After graduating from NC State, she served an 11 month service term with El Futuro as their Bilingual Community Engagement and Garden Coordinator and really enjoyed getting to learn more about the mental health field and nature can play an important factor to positive mental health. She enjoyed her time with El Futuro and wants to keep making connections in the community. In her free time Jaeleen enjoys trying new restaurants, going to art museums and visiting her family.

Marita Malm Morgan, PhD, LCMHCA

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 610

Marita Malm Morgan, PhD, LCMHCA

Marita moved to the US eleven years ago from Argentina where she completed her Psychology studies (MA degree) and practiced psychotherapy for 10 years. In her practice there she worked in public hospitals and private practice helping mostly adults and seniors. Her training is in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in an Integrated Model of Psychotherapy and also in Neuropsychology. As soon as she moved to the US, she worked with us as a volunteer for a year and then she continued helping off and on over the last several years volunteering to help with special cases. Additionally she finished her PhD in Psychology and became licensed in North Carolina! She loves working at El Futuro and helping the Spanish-speaking population living here in North Carolina.

Cecilia Ordóñez, MD

Psychiatrist, 919-688-7101 ext 648

Cecilia Ordóñez, MD

Cecilia was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After finishing medical school at the Universidad Catolica de Santiago de Guayaquil, she came to Durham to begin her training in Psychiatry at Duke University. During her residency she was interested in community mental health. She began her work with El Futuro first as part of an elective program through Duke. During this time she realized how much she enjoyed being able to work with our Latino community and being able to both express herself in her native language and connect to clients in theirs. When Cecilia isn’t working at El Futuro, she enjoys playing different sports, traveling, and checking out new local restaurants.

Juan Prandoni, PhD, LPA, HSP-PA

Training Director, (919) 688-7101 ext 658

Juan Prandoni, PhD, LPA, HSP-PA

Juan Prandoni was born in Argentina and moved to Winston-Salem when he was 10. He did undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and then entered UNC-Greensboro’s Clinical Psychology PhD program after taking some time off to backpack through Patagonia and live in NYC. He has a strong ethnic identity as an Argentine, so he has been militant about maintaining his Spanish language, using it during his clinical work.

When Juan was 18, he did an internship in the child and adolescent inpatient unit at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, which pushed him toward wanting to work with more severe mental pathologies. This experience also made him want to shoot for a PhD. Before coming to El Futuro, Juan completed his predoctoral internship at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth NJ. In his free time, Juan enjoys playing and watching soccer — he’s a huge Liverpool fan — backpacking, and hanging out with his cats, Francis and Clara.

Dayhana Ray, LCMHC

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 667

Dayhana Ray, LCMHCA

Dayhana Ray was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in New York City. She stayed in-state to attend Syracuse University and received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology, returning to NYC to attend Mercy College for her Masters in Science in Mental Health Counseling in May of 2018.

She has always been interested in helping people, and was drawn to the mental health field after working at a Domestic Violence Agency for four years. She said getting her masters to be able to work as a clinician is one of the best decisions she’s ever made. At her previous position she worked mainly with Latinx survivors and is excited to be able to continue to serve the Latinx community at El Futuro.

In her free time, Dayhana enjoys relaxing with some sewing or crocheting projects!

JJ Richardson

Grants Development Manager

JJ Richardson

JJ Richardson grew up in Massachusetts but has spent most of her adult life in North Carolina. She graduated from Clark University with a B.A. in International Development and Social Change. Following her interests and passions over the last 20+ years, JJ has worked as a journalist, teacher, farmhand, educational program director, communications manager, and most recently, a grant writer and reviewer. She has traveled extensively and for four years lived in Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, Mexico, which is where she met and married her husband. Part of a bilingual and bicultural family, she is passionate about supporting immigrant families as they navigate life in the United States. She is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition).

JJ loves to garden and in her spare time can be found with her husband and two sons swimming in the Eno, hiking in the woods, or relaxing at the beach. She is thrilled to have landed at El Futuro and feels grateful for the opportunity to work with such a dynamic organization and community!

Megan Robertson

La Mesita Project Manager, 919-688-7101 ext 673

Megan Robertson

Megan Robertson grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland and lived in Charlottesville and Milwaukee before moving to Durham in 2011. Prior to her time in Durham, she worked as an IT Consultant for MillerCoors Brewery where she helped them install a new pricing software. Her love of details, organization, and coordination provided a good transition into the project manager role for La Mesita – our new and growing North Carolina Latino Mental Health Provider Network. She also spent a year as a travel coordinator, where she further developed her love and appreciation for exploring cultures around the world! She has been practicing her high school Spanish skills with her young daughters, both of whom have now mastered the phrase ‘Mas leche por favor’! When not drinking milk with her daughters, she loves to hike, garden, and enjoy good food with friends and family.

Dalila Rodriguez

Clinical Assistant, 919-688-7101

Dalila Rodriguez

Dalila started working at El Futuro two years ago and has been an integral part of our front desk team ever since. She grew up in Puerto Rico and Colorado Springs, and remembers wanting to be a teacher when she was younger. When she got a little older, Dalila’s dream was to be a social worker, and she worked in social services in Colorado Springs and Durham. When Dalila first heard about El Futuro she realized its mission was close to her heart. She was interested in learning more about the world of nonprofits and loved that El Futuro helps the Spanish-speaking community in Durham. She said this is a place she hopes to grow old in. In her freetime, Dalila adopts whatever her kids’ hobbies are in the moment, but also likes to take “me time” to dance and swim.

Gabriela Rojas

Therapist

Gabriela Rojas

Therapist

Gabriela was born and raised in Venezuela and moved to the USA at age fifteen. She completed her psychology undergraduate degree at East Carolina University and her Masters in Counseling at the same university. During graduate school she worked as a registered behavior technician where she helped children with Autism and their families. As an immigrant and first generation graduate she has always wanted to give back to her community. She loves the work that El Futuro is doing to help the community and she is excited to be a part of it. When she is not working at El Futuro, she enjoys traveling and exploring new places in the area.

Sarelli Rossi, MHA

Director of Operations, (919) 688-7101 ext 603

Sarelli Rossi, MHA

Sarelli feels all of her experience from growing up in Peru to finishing her Masters in Health Administration at UNC prepared her to be our Operations Director and get to do her “dream job!” Sarelli was born in Peru before moving to Chapel Hill during high school. After graduating from ECU with a degree in Psychology and minor in Biology, she earned her Masters in Health Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill while working full time at the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank. She came to know El Futuro through volunteering and so was already part of our team before she joined El Futuro’s staff in the late summer of 2010 as our Clinic Manager. She later was promoted to Director of Operations. Her commitment to the Latino community is obvious in every interaction. Sarelli makes families feel welcome and quietly does the heavy lifting behind the scenes to make the impossible happen every day. In her spare time she can be found with her family and listening to music!

Ismael Santillano, MA Ed.S, LCMHCA

Case Manager Lead, (919) 688-7101 ext 650

Ismael Santillano, MA Ed.S, LCMHCA

Ismael was born in Los Angeles, California but moved to Chapel Hill, NC when he was 5 years old. Both of his parents were born in Mexico and they raised their children to be fluent in Spanish. Ismael studied Psychology as an undergraduate at UNC-Greensboro and then got a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Gardner-Webb University. It has always been a goal of his to help the Latino community. It is an underserved population and he feels that he can make a difference in people’s lives. Growing up Ismael didn’t see a lot of Hispanic professionals who could serve as role models but he wants be one to the next generation. When he’s not at El Futuro Ismael loves to spend time with his daughter and wife, play soccer, watch sports, and occasionally play computer games.

Rachel Siegel

Outpatient Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 669

Rachel Siegel

Originally from Miami, Rachel received her undergraduate degree from UNC Asheville in Nonprofit Development, a degree she created in their interdisciplinary studies department. She recently completed her Masters in Social Work from Appalachian State University. Growing up in a Cuban-Israeli family, Rachel learned some Spanish at home, but really became fluent when she moved to Galicia, Spain after college to teach English and work at a Panaderia. After coming back home from Spain, Rachel worked at a group home for children in foster care, which inspired her to pursue a career in social work. She is especially interested in international relations and creating global community, previously working at USCRI in Raleigh towards these ends.

Rachel enjoys spending quality time with her cat, Jude, watching movies, hanging out on a river, listening to podcasts, and singing!

Pablo Silva, MA, CSAC

Substance Use Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 675

Pablo Silva, MA, CSAC

Pablo Silva joins El Futuro as a Substance Use Counselor. Originally from Puerto Rico, his first career was in electronics. When his supervisor at the time realized his potential to help others, he recommended he pursue a degree in Business Administration. Eventually, Pablo decided he wanted to pursue his Masters in Counseling Psychology. Pablo started his work in foster homes and has now been doing substance use counseling for the past 4 years. Since substance use can be a product of larger problems, Pablo tries to be an agent of change for the people he sees.

In his free time, Pablo enjoys watching Houston Astros baseball and Dallas Mavericks basketball because they have Puerto Rican players on their team!

Facelys Silvestre, LCSWA

Outpatient Therapist

Facelys Silvestre, LCSWA

Outpatient Therapist

Facelys grew up in the Dominican Republic and relocated to the U.S at the age of 16. She received her Bachelors in Psychology from SUNY University at Albany and her Master of Social Work from Walden University. Facelys has worked for over a decade serving the Latinx community in various capacities in Wake and Durham County, NC. Facelys takes a strength-based and solution focused therapeutic approach. She enjoys providing psychotherapy services to adults and children to support them as they navigate and cope with challenges in their lives. She has experience with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, life transitions, and trauma. She is passionate about helping her clients overcome the cycles of intergenerational trauma. She meets each client where they are and allows for a safe space where clients can start or continue their journey towards growth and healing.
In her free time, Facelys enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

 

Katy Sims, MD

Psychiatrist, 919-688-7101

Katy Sims, MD

Katy grew up in Carthage, NC — a tobacco farming town South of the Triangle. She attended Davidson College for her undergraduate degree and is now a fourth year Psychiatry resident at UNC School of Medicine. This is Katy’s second time at El Futuro — she also did a residency here during the second year of her program!

Katy’s dedication to psychiatry comes out of her realization that whole-body health often has to start with sound behavioral health — you can’t work on someone’s diabetes if they’re too depressed to make lifestyle changes. She especially likes working with Spanish-speaking populations because of how much being able to deliver treatments in their native language means to these clients.

In her free time, she fosters border collies with her husband, knits, sews, weaves, and crochets, and spends a lot of time outdoors — also with the dogs!

David Lucas “Luke” Smith, MD

Psychiatrist and Executive Director, (919) 688-7101 ext 604

David Lucas “Luke” Smith, MD

Luke Smith was raised in Arkansas and moved to North Carolina for training in child and adult psychiatry. After volunteering in the community and perceiving a great need for Spanish language services, Dr. Smith mobilized the community to create El Futuro. He is the Executive Director and Medical Director, and provides psychiatric care to both children and adults. Each year, he and his staff provide services to 1,500 – 1,700 children and families who come for help. He is double board certified in both adult psychiatry and in child and adolescent psychiatry. In addition to being active with direct services and shaping policy at the local and state level, Dr. Smith leads the organization in research efforts through projects funded by the NIMH and PCORI with a focus on creating evidence based practices that are especially targeted to help the North Carolina Latino Community.

Magdalena Straub, MS, LMFT

Therapist, (919) 688-7101 ext 639

Magdalena Straub, MS, LMFT

Magdalena grew up in Santiago, Chile, where she received her undergraduate degree in psychology at Universidad Catolica de Chile. After graduation, she worked with at-risk children and adolescents, using a systemic perspective. Seeing the need to understand her clients in a bigger context, Magdalena moved to College Park, MD to pursue an M.S. in Couple and Family Therapy at the University of Maryland, where she worked with families, couples, and individuals from diverse backgrounds. In her work she has used a number of therapeutic approaches, and has come to believe that a central aspect of therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client, emphasizing the therapist being nonjudgmental and compassionate. When she is not working, Magdalena can be found reading novels, cooking vegetarian dishes, or going for a run.

Felita Sutharshan, MS

Data Analyst

Felita Sutharshan, MS

Data Analyst

Felita Sutharshan grew up in Sri Lanka, and moved to Raleigh, NC in 2002. She got her Master’s from NC State University and got my Data Analytics certification from the University of Chapel Hill, NC. She also worked in a health care facility for a decade and served the community who needed nutritional education staying healthy with a restricted diet. Entering Data Science and continuing to work as a Data Analyst and with the experience in health made her join the El Futuro. “I will continue with my passion and support the community,” says Felita. Her hobbies are cooking, walking and listening to music.

Leigh Sweet, PHR

Human Resources Manager, (919) 688-7101 ext 678

Leigh Sweet, PHR

Leigh Sweet is joining us as our Human Resources Generalist. Leigh grew up in Richmond, Virginia, but has now spent over 25 years in the Triangle! She’s excited to bring her experience to El Futuro and to show the value of what having an HR professional can create in a workplace. Leigh began working in HR when she worked at Planned Parenthood for 18 years! It was never her path but she found herself doing the work and loving it. The opportunity to work at El Futuro merges the two things that matter most to her: making healthy space for employees and working for a mission driven organization.

Leigh has three children and sometimes their hobbies — gymnastics, volleyball, ballet, and horseback riding become her hobbies. For her, her main hobby is staying connected to her friends.

Ana Trinidad

Clinical Assistant

Ana Trinidad

Ana was born in Mexico, in a small town called Temascalcingo de Jose Maria Velasco. She grew up in Durham and graduated from Hillside New Tech High School. For Ana, working with patients is about the connection she makes with people. It’s a passion of hers to always seek out the best in herself and give that same energy to someone who is in need of aid. Ana is excited to join El Futuro because of the great services we provide and she wants to be part of helping the Latino community in need of healing. In her free time, Ana enjoys vlogging, cooking, and painting.

Luis Velarde

Case Manager, (919) 688-7101 ext 619

Luis Velarde

Luis was born in Lima, Peru and immigrated to Sanford, NC at age 9. He graduated valedictorian from Southern Lee HS and then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, obtaining a BA in Psychology. Luis began his work with El Futuro as an administrative assistant in August of 2015, was promoted to Clinic Manager in early 2016, and most recently started providing case management services as part of our Conexiones team. Luis strongly identifies with El Futuro’s mission and is happy to facilitate the process of providing the Hispanic community with beneficial services and links to community resources that are otherwise not easily accessible to them. Luis believes that, even though inequality is an inescapable feature of society, El Futuro is a prime example of how a positive difference toward justice and equality can still be made. In his free time he enjoys listening to music, watching soccer, and being out in nature.

Board

Margaret “Peggy” Bentley, MA, PhD – Member
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health –
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nutrition,
Former Associate Dean for Global Health

Cecilia Barja Chamas, MPP – Vice Chair/Secretary
Community Organizer

Richard Bruch, MD – Member Treasurer
Consultant, EmergeOrtho, P.A.

Kevin FitzGerald, MPA – Member

Manuel Nieto, MBA – Member
BB&T

Bruno Estigarribia, PhD – Member
UNC Romance Studies – Associate Professor of Spanish

Karlina Matthews, MBA – Member
UNC Health

Hope Williams, JD – Member
Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of North Carolina

Jenni Owen, MPA – Member
Director of Strategic Partnerships, Office of NC Governor Roy Cooper

Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda, PhD, MPH, RN – Member
Associate Professor, Duke University

Lister Delgado, MBA, MS – Member
Venture Capitalist

Merywen “Wenny” Wigley, MSc – Member
Associate Compliance Director at IQVIA

Luis Alvarez – Member
Owner of Bull City Brick and Luna Night Club, Vice President of Mante Masonry

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