Team + Board

Team + Board

Team + Board

Team + Board

Team + Board



Team

Team


Nichelle Gilbert Headshot

NICHELLE GILBERT

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Nichelle joined the PCA team in 2018 as Director of Operations before transitioning to her role as Executive Director in 2022. Nichelle has more than 15 years of lived and professional experience working to support economic and educational systems change alongside historically- and systematically-excluded BIPOC communities.

Prior to PCA, Nichelle worked for over a decade in higher education to increase and support a diverse health workforce in New Mexico. Nichelle was the primary liaison for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC) Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, providing professional and technical leadership consultation across strategic initiatives. Nichelle also managed the BA/MD program at the UNMHSC, working collaboratively across divisions to develop a student support model for diverse and first-generation students in health careers.

Nichelle earned a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Strategic Management and Policy, and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Mexico. Nichelle lives in Albuquerque and is most proud of her daughter, Isabella, a college student in Arizona.

Teresa Madrid headshot

TERESA MADRID

DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS & ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING

Teresa has 12 years of experience in the area of informal education and pathway program development, community engagement and evaluation. She was the Director of Programs with the University of New Mexico Health Science Center (UNM HSC) Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OFDEI). In this position, she oversaw a series of programs that serve students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM and health care professions by introducing them to career pathways, educational programs and training opportunities.

Prior to her work with OFDEI, Teresa assisted in qualitative and quantitative program evaluation, including literature reviews and co-authorship of peer reviewed published articles related to learner advocacy and community-based participatory research in education. She also facilitates a program, Cafe Scientifique, that encourages teens to explore STEM careers through engagement with local professionals.

As a first generation college graduate in her family, Teresa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of New Mexico and a Master’s Degree in Public Health & Certificate in Health Policy from the University of Washington- Seattle. Teresa was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM and has lived in Albuquerque over the past 20 years. She has a son, Joaquin and a daughter, Elisa and spends her free time with family in Northern New Mexico and Albuquerque.

Octavio Munoz headshot

OCTAVIO MUÑOZ

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

Octavio Muñoz (he/him/el) is the Director of Operations for the Partnership for Community Action. He has 10+ years of pathway program and workforce development with underrepresented communities of color. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance in 2012 and a Master of Business Administration in 2019. Prior to joining PCA, he was a Project Manager at Nusenda and a Program Manager at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
(OFDEI).

As an undergraduate, he worked with ENLACE NM Statewide Collaborative as a Community Outreach Coordinator working within several Albuquerque Public Schools as a mentor and tutor developing college bound programming for 6th-12th grade students. In addition, he supported efforts focusing on student access and success, family and community engagement, leadership and professional development, and policy development. In his work at OFDEI, Octavio managed the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of pathway programs. The goal of these programs was to diversify the healthcare workforce by engaging underrepresented students.

As a first-generation college graduate, Octavio strongly believes in fostering networks that can build on communities’ strengths to help them accomplish their goals. He hopes that by his own experiences and stories as a student and now a professional, he can engage youth to reach their highest potential and academic success.

Photo of PCA Team member, Lizzet Vargas

LIZZET VARGAS

PROGRAM MANAGER

Lizzet Vargas was born in Mexico City. She has been living in the United States for over 20 years. She has been married for 17 years, and has 2 sons, 16 & 12 years old. Lizzet has a passion for working with the community. Lizzet started as a parent wanting to learn more about how to advocate for her sons and took a 10-session class that is called Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP/OD). She loved the concepts and content shared with parents, and decided to become a facilitator for this program. Lizzet has been an AP/OD facilitator since 2014. Then she decided to pursue her business administration career and got her Business Administration Associates 2 years ago. She also felt the passion for learning more about early childhood and how to advocate for our children in NM and got her Early Childhood Certificate. 

Lizzet Vargas is the Community Program Coordinator for the program Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors for Partnership for Community Action. Lizzet is a state trainer for the AP/OD program. She has trained and certified community leaders as AP/OD facilitators. She enjoys giving back to her community and keeps learning from all the people she meets. She truly believes that when communities get organized and raise their voices with a common goal, the change happens. Lizzet is looking forward to learning more and sharing more with communities, and witnessing the great impact in the lives of families in the Land of Enchantment. 

Photo of PCA Team member, Edward Irra

EDWARD IRRA

OPERATIONS SUPPORT COORDINATOR

Edward Irra is the Operations Support Coordinator for Partnership for Community Action. Prior to joining PCA, he has worked as a restaurant manager and hotel front desk agent. Edward also earned a Bachelors of the Arts in History in 2020. 

Originally from the San Fernando Valley in California, Edward is the oldest of 3 children, all first generation Mexican-Americans. His mother is from Guadalajara, and his father is from Acapulco. Upon moving to Rio Rancho in 2007, he attended Rio Rancho Mid-High (now Rio Rancho Middle School) and graduated from V Sue Cleveland High School in 2012. He has always had a passion for teaching others, which led him to a restaurant manager position following in the footsteps of his parents, where he instilled values of hard work and leadership amongst his young crew, emphasizing positive attitudes and camaraderie as being critical to a great working environment. His strong desire to continue working on ways to make differences in his community led him to PCA, where he hopes to continue to make a difference in any capacity he can. He hopes that his lived experience can help provide new perspectives and avenues through which positive change can be conducted. 

Photo of Jessica George sitting outside

JESSICA GEORGE

PROGRAM COORDINATOR AND TRAINER

Jessica was born and raised in Torreón Coahuila, México. After high school, Jessica followed her family to the United States where she has pursued a unique journey. As a mother to two boys, she loves spending time with her family. She is passionate about early education and supporting families helping with their children’s growth, education, and well-being. In 2018, she discovered the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum through her child’s school and obtained her facilitator certificate to teach other parents about the importance of early childhood development.  In 2019, Jessica graduated with a Bilingual Customer Service Representative Certificate from Central New Mexico Community College. She continues to pursue her dream to be an educator through Early Childhood Multicultural Education. Outside of work, she loves to travel and learn about different cultures and is multilingual in Spanish, English, and some French. 

Oriandi smiling with flowers in the background. She's wearing a green shirt and floral pants.

ORIANDI MELLAS

COMMUNITY PROGRAM SPECIALIST

Oriandi Mellas born in Gomez Palacio Durango, first generation Immigrant daughter, sister and mother. Oriandi migrated to the United states at the age of nine with her family and has lived in Albuquerque ever since. Oriandi struggled learning English and finding resources for her education goals, her parents decided to join PCA to support her in her journey. Later after Graduating from Rio Grande high school with her bilingual seal, she joined PCA to continue her parents work. She started to advocate for immigrant rights and through the help and mentoring of PCA she found a pathway to higher education. She obtained an education in Early multicultural education and language development, with an énfasis in family and community development. Early childhood education became her passion and continued to pursue her teaching degree. She graduated from New Mexico Community College and continued her teaching license at the University of New Mexico, Oriandi has been an advocate for the immigrant community and specifically for young children after becoming a teacher and a mother. Her passion for education, children and community continues to grow and now shares it with her seven year old daughter. Outside of work she enjoys the outdoors and spending time with her family. Oriandi shares many passions through creativity, Art, dance and nature.

Headshot of Ismael Hernandez

ISMAEL HERNANDEZ (he/they/el/ellos)

Public Ally

Ismael recently graduated with a Bachelors in Marketing Management with a minor in Communications from the University of New Mexico. He was born in Albuquerque, and is a first generation graduate. Both of his parents are from Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Mexico. Previously, as a manager in retail and co-chair of community organizations at UNM, he learned the business aspect of the work environment. Ismael hopes to continue to serve his community through his work at PCA.

Headshot of Jaime J. Tovar

JAIME J. TOVAR

Public Ally

Jaime was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jaime comes from two Mexican parents from Juarez, Chihuahua. He graduated from Atrisco Heritage Academy with the city and state bilingual seal in Spanish, and is currently a student at Central New Mexico Community College. Jamie’s desire to thrive in helping the community comes from being first generation and knowing that small opportunities offered to people like him make all the difference. Jaime believes in equal opportunities for all.


Board

Board


MERIAH HEREDIA-GRIEGO, PHD

MERIAH HEREDIA-GRIEGO, PHD

BOARD MEMBER

Dr. Meriah Heredia-Griego is currently the Evaluation, Learning and Impact Consultant for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in New Mexico. During the 2019 Legislative Session, Dr. Heredia-Griego served as the Acting Deputy Director for the New Mexico Legislative Education Study Committee. She has been a bill analyst for the New Mexico Council of University Presidents, the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico State Senate.

Dr. Heredia-Griego holds a PhD in Higher Education Administration from Colorado State University, a Masters of Community and Regional Planning and a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Chicana/o Studies from UNM. During her time at UNM, Dr. Heredia-Griego served as Director and Research Assistant Professor at the UNM Cradle to Career Policy Institute (CCPI), previously the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR), where she partnered with key education agencies and stakeholders to conduct applied research in the areas of education policy and program evaluation. Her work has been critical to making data and research available and useful for decision makers. In addition to her role as CCPI director, she also maintained a research portfolio, which included higher education policy, equity-focused research, qualitative research methods, community based participatory research, action research, Hispanic Serving Institution leadership, and workforce training programs. She has nearly twenty years of experience working with students, families, leaders, and policymakers to address some of the biggest challenges facing children and families in New Mexico.

Dr. Heredia-Griego has served on the Advisory Council for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) and as a part-time instructor in Teacher Education, Educational Leadership and Policy in the UNM College of Education where she taught courses on Education Policy and Organizational

CARLOS LUCERO

CARLOS LUCERO

BOARD MEMBER

As a long time, resident of New Mexico, Carlos Lucero understands what makes our State unique and the opportunities ahead of us to make it better for our current and future generations. After leaving New Mexico for a position right out of college in Upstate New York, Carlos returned to the State he appreciates to help make a difference. Currently, Carlos sits on boards pertaining to energy and economic development including the Albuquerque Energy Council, NM Clean Cities Coalition, and WeConnectNM. Currently, Carlos serves as Government Affairs Manager at Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) as a liaison to professional business and civic groups, community organizations, and state, federal, local elected and appointed officials to troubleshoot and educate various issues affecting utility industry and energy developments.

Carlos has over fifteen years of electric utility industry and energy experience and has successively worked in the areas of system engineering, transmission planning, business customer support, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and infrastructure, smart cities initiatives, and public policy. Carlos holds both a Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering from New Mexico State University and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of New Mexico.

SANDY MARTINEZ PINO

SANDY MARTINEZ PINO

BOARD MEMBER EMERITUS

Sandy Martinez Pino was a founding Board Member of the Partnership for Community Action, a role in which she served until her passing in 2018. Sandy worked at the Albuquerque Police Department for 25 years, retiring and coming back half time with the APD crime prevention unit, where she helped to form neighborhood watch programs and conduct community policing trainings. Sandy was an amateur and professional boxing judge for 27 years and served as president of USA Boxing for twelve years, which has over 60,000 members nationwide. Sandy was a trailblazer and a pioneer in many different facets of life. She is missed dearly and will hold her Board position with PCA as long as the organization exists.

BERNADETTE MIERA

BERNADETTE MIERA

TREASURER

Bernadette is a 13th generation New Mexican (yes, you read right—her family dates back to the 1600s in NM). Bernadette Miera’s main goal in her job as Bernalillo County Neighborhood Program Coordinator is to create better communication between residents and county government. Miera earned her master’s degree in Community & Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico in July 2002. She graduated from UNM two years earlier with a bachelor’s degree in University Studies. She has operated a planning/facilitation consulting company as well as a legal research/courier business. Bernadette is actively involved in the community as a board member of Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum, Mother of Mercy Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic, Martineztown House of Neighborly Services, the Partnership for Community Action and Amigos y Amigas, all non-profit organizations serving Bernalillo County residents.

KRISTINE SUOZZI, PHD

KRISTINE SUOZZI, PHD

VICE PRESIDENT

Kristine Suozzi, Ph.D. is a former New Mexico of Health Department/ Public Health Division Director, the current coordinator for the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group, and a member of the Bernalillo County Place Matters Team. Dr. Suozzi has dedicated her professional career to promoting community health equity and reducing disparities. She worked as an evaluator for the Partnership for Community Action before joining the Board in 2013.

AMBER WALLIN

AMBER WALLIN

BOARD MEMBER

Amber is the Executive Director at New Mexico Voices for Children. With NM Voices since 2012, Amber focuses on tax, economic, and early childhood policy and is a state and nationally recognized expert on issues related to child and family well-being. She has served on multiple fiscal policy and child well-being advisory committees among policy networks, philanthropic organizations, and governmental bodies and regularly shares information and recommendations on how to build greater equity and opportunity for children and families. Born and raised in New Mexico, Amber received her Master of Public Administration degree from New Mexico State University and worked in the public sector at the city, state, and federal levels before joining NM Voices. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband and two young children.