Meet the Creciendo Juntos Team
Melissa Vargas, a graduate of SUNY Poly Institute of Technology (Utica, New York) graduated with a Bachelors in Sociology, and a Masters from SUNY Binghamton University in Public Administration. Melissa is devoted to co-creating celebratory, healing and liberating spaces for afro-indigenous youth of the Latinx diaspora globally. She pursued her passion for teaching and community organizing through multiple positions such as a: Youth Sex Educator, Community Grant Manager, High School Project Coordinator in Central New York. She is a self-proclaimed literary artist, Curanderx in training, youth advocate, and entrepreneur. She was born in the Bronx, NY, and her family is from Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Through her professional and academic experiences, she has assisted many youth organizations and artists with developing cultural and social-emotional programs.
Youth Program Coordinator
Elizabeth Valtierra is a community organizer for immigrant’s rights, LGBTQ+ equality, women’s rights, and educational equity. She has been living in Charlottesville since 2012, graduated from Charlottesville High School, and is a student at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Her engagement with the community began in high school as she understood the weight of her inherent political identity as a queer Mexican-American woman and realized the need for proper representation within the Latinx community in all spaces of power. Since then, she’s been involved with the Charlottesville City Youth Council, Amnesty International, and lobbying alongside VACOLAO (Virginia Coalition of Latino Organization). Elizabeth currently organizes and dedicate most of her work, with and for, youths of color, queer youths, and femmes within Virginia through her position as the Youth Program Coordinator of Creciendo Juntos.
Our Board takes time from their professional lives to help make our mission a reality. Our board members range from attorneys to educators but all share the common denominator of wanting to bring change to Charlottesville. Creciendo Juntos acknowledges Charlottesville’s problematic history that is rooted in racial iniquity. Progress has been made, but there is much more work to be done. Creciendo Juntos strives to be a key participator in that work.
Tanishka Cruz is an attorney in solo practice at Cruz Law, a Charlottesville-based immigration and family law firm. She is also an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, where she supervises students in the Immigration Law Clinic, which runs in conjunction with the University of Virginia. Tanishka earned her law degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia. As the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tanishka has dedicated her legal career to the practice of immigration law and is fluent in Spanish. At LAJC, Tanishka focused primarily on the management of the Virginia Special Immigrant Juvenile Project, an award-winning collaboration between LAJC and pro bono attorneys across the state. The project has saved over 100 children from likely deportation. In 2016, she won a LASSY award from the Virginia Poverty Law Center for greatest achievement in immigration law. Tanishka lives in Palmyra, Virginia with her husband, Dave, and son, Noah.
Prior to his current role as a nonprofit and business development consultant, Dan worked as the Assistant Director for the One Voice College Scholars Program in Los Angeles for four years. He also served on the Steering Committee of The Southern California College Access Network, which included two years as the Capacity Building Chair. Prior to that, Dan earned his BA from Washington University in St. Louis with a dual-degree in Comparative Literature and Spanish and an MBA from the Darden School of Business at UVA. Dan has lived in Charlottesville since 2011 after moving here with his wife, Veronica, who completed her Ph.D. in Education Policy at the Curry School of Education at UVA.
Miembro de la Junta
Dr. Irène P. Mathieu is a general pediatrician and poet at the University of Virginia, where she serves as an affiliate faculty member of UVA’s Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities and director of the Department of Pediatrics’ Equity and Inclusion Committee. Irène earned a BA in International Relations from the College of William & Mary before completing a Fulbright fellowship in the Dominican Republic. She went to Vanderbilt University for medical school and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for residency in general pediatrics, where she was selected as a Global Health Track resident. Her passion for community-engaged research has led her to work on public health projects in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru, Nicaragua, and with Latinx communities in several U.S. cities. Irène is also the author of three poetry collections – Grand Marronage, which won Editor's Choice for the Gatewood Prize; orogeny, which won the Bob Kaufman Book Prize; and the galaxy of origins. She serves as a poetry book reviewer for Muzzle Magazine and an editor for the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s humanities section, and has developed curricula using poetry to teach medical students and pediatric residents about social determinants of health, trauma, and resilience. Irène has received creative writing fellowships from Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Having spent much of her childhood in Charlottesville, Irène recently returned to the area to live with her partner and their dog.
Ingrid Ramos was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and came to live to the United States 14 years ago. She is a counselor who works in the Central Virginia area and dedicates herself to community services. After coming to the U.S. she has focused her work on serving Latino families. Ingrid has a Master’s degree in professional counseling from Liberty University, a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago and a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and auditing from the Universidad APEC. Her past work in the mental health field includes experience as Latino Services Program Coordinator at the Charlottesville League of Therapists, where she worked with children, individuals, and families. Currently, she works at The Women’s Initiative as a therapist and coordinator for the Bienestar Program, providing mental health counseling services to Latina women. She is also the leader of the CJ-Network Mental Health Workgroup. She is in charge of coordinating meetings were bilingual counselors in the area, family support workers, and providers supporting the Latino community come together to discuss mental needs, gaps in services, and resources.
Miembro de la Junta
Carolina was born and raised in Mexico City and moved to Virginia at the age of 15 years old. She attended University of Lynchburg where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and French Language Studies. She is currently working as the Operations Coordinator at the Community Investment Collaborative, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering small businesses for big change. She is currently leading a Spanish Speaking Business Circle as part of an initiative to work more with Latino business owners to help them grow and realize their business ideas. Carolina enjoys spending time with her family, friends, traveling and trying new recipes.
Rose E. Gonzalez
Miembro de la Junta
Dr. R. Emily Gonzalez is an Associate Professor in the University of Virginia School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. As a pediatric psychologist, she provides assessment and intervention services for the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology and for the Division of Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Her clinical research interests are in the areas of global health, culturally informed assessment, and social and resiliency determinants of psychological health and developmental trauma. She is currently most involved in a cognition and fluoride study based in Rajasthan, India (https://uva.theopenscholar.com/ground-water/about). Her local and national community service is devoted to Latinx community activism, advocacy, and immigration policy consultation for Latinx children and their families.
Karina A. Monroy
Karina A. Monroy was born and raised in Southern California. In 2016 she received her B.A. in art and anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Karina’s upbringing as a daughter of Mexican immigrants has led her to seek a life and career dedicated to the social justice and representation of Latinx communities. Karina has been able to collaborate with Latinx communities from California, to Mexico and now Virginia by means of her artwork, teaching, and dedicated research. In addition to her community work, Karina takes joy in the little things in life, like sewing, drawing, cooking, drinking tea with her abuelita, and tending to her plantitas.