2019 MO Immigration ConferencE
KEYNOTE (SATURDAY NOV. 16th)
Sulma Arias is the Director of Immigrant Rights at Community Change. For four years previously, she was the Executive Director of Sunflower Community Action in Kansas, a multi-racial grassroots organization dealing with issues of racial and economic inequality. Under her leadership, a coalition of local and national organizations launched an anti-hate campaign against the agenda of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, which America's Voice described as the best anti-hate work in the country.
Prior to Sunflower, Sulma was the Campaign Director for National People's Action's Immigrant and Worker Justice program, where she coordinated training and capacity building for 12 grassroots organizations in 10 states. Sulma migrated from El Salvador to Kansas at the age of twelve. In 2000, Sulma organized leaders to launch a statewide campaign to change the state's driver's license law. In 2003, she directed grassroots participation in the introduction and successful passage of Kansas' in-state tuition bill. In 2004, as the Organizing Director for Sunflower, Sulma helped expand Sunflower Community Action from local to statewide.
FRIDAY Nov. 15th
Senior Training Attorney - Immigration Justice Campaign, American Immigration Council
Jennie Guilfoyle is the Senior Education and Training Attorney for the Immigration Justice Campaign at the American Immigration Council. Before joining the Council, she spent four years as an Attorney Adviser at the State Department in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, working on issues ranging from citizenship to intercountry adoption. Prior to that, she worked for many years as a Senior Training Attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, designing and leading in-person and online trainings on a wide range of immigration law topics. She also worked at Church World Service, where she trained refugee resettlement programs on immigration law and program management. She began her legal career as an Equal Justice Works fellow at the New York Association for New Americans, where she represented asylum and VAWA applicants. She holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, and a B.A. in English from Harvard College.
Network Director - Welcoming America
Christina Pope is a Network Director at Welcoming America, where she provides technical assistance and designs programs and strategy for a membership network of local governments and nonprofits. Her membership portfolio includes Missouri and the Northeastern United States. Christina has 10 years of experience in community development and international education, including prior roles at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the immigrant community-based organization CASA in Maryland, and public schools in Recife, Brazil as a Fulbright grantee.
Associate Professor in Professional Counseling & Director of the Clinical Program - Webster University
Hasmik is Associate Professor at the Department of Professional Counseling and the Director of the Clinical Program at Webster University. Dr. Chakaryan obtained her PhD in Counselor Education at the University of Toledo. Throughout her career, she has been actively involved in social justice and human rights advocacy. She has founded, coordinated, as well volunteered for several psycho-social and psycho-educational projects internationally. Dr. Chakaryan has also established a training program for helping professionals in Mexico. She regularly presents at state and national conferences. Her expertise includes counseling and outreach with victims of various crimes, crises, and traumas, multicultural counseling, and internationalizing counseling as a profession and a graduate degree.
Director of Human Resources - All Access Interpreters
Sarah Barekzai is the Human Resources Director and Translation Project Manager at All Access Interpreters since September of 2018. Previously, she was the Senior Language Services Specialist and Translation Project Manager at the International Institute of St. Louis for 15 years. She studied Business Administration and Banking in Switzerland, received a Certificate in Translation from French into English, has an A.A. in Communication Arts and Foreign Language, a B.S. in Human Resources Management, and a M.Ed. in Instructional Design. In addition to English, Sarah speaks French, Swiss German, German and is conversational in Dari. She has many years of training experience in cultural competency, working with interpreters, and interpreter trainings. She is also an adjunct professor at Webster University teaching in the Certificate in Translation program.
Education - St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council
Marissa Cohen is the Fair Housing Education Coordinator at the Equal Housing & Opportunity Council (EHOC). As a native of St. Louis she is passionate about equitable community development and advocacy for housing rights. In her role, she coordinates and conducts speaking engagements and training requests made by community groups and service providers. Marissa obtained a BS degree in Psychology and Spanish from University of Missouri Kansas City, then served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador for two years. Immediately following, Marissa pursued studies at Washington University and acquired a Masters of Social Work, in Domestic Social and Economic Development with a focus in Housing from the Brown School of Social Work.
Director Family Development & Program Evaluation - Lifewise STL
Emily Stuart is the Director of Family Development and Program Evaluation at Kingdom House, where she oversees core adult programs and quality improvement for the organization. Emily has her Master in Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis and over 12 years of nonprofit experience specializing in evaluation, program design, and fund development. She teaches at both Washington University and Saint Louis University. Emily provided research support on economic mobility for the Ferguson Commission. Emily is originally from Arizona, and has practiced social work in three states.
Financial Advising Director - Beyond Housing
As the Financial Advising Director at Beyond Housing, Eric is responsible for the oversight of Beyond Housing’s Home Ownership Center staff and programs, which include HUD Approved Homebuyer Education & Housing Counseling, Down-Payment Lending, and matched savings programs for adults and youth. Eric started at Beyond Housing in 2006 after completing his Peace Corps service in El Salvador and his Master’s degree in Social Work from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Myisha Antonette Johnson
Tenants Rights Coordinator - Dutchtown Sth Community Corp.
Myisha is the Tenant Rights Coordinator For Dutchtown South Community Corporation (DSCC). Myisha started out as a Dutchtown resident participating in the Community Empowerment Community (CEC). Myisha then became a community champion with the So Fresh So Clean project founded by DSCC working side by side with other champs from the Dutchtown area and surrounding neighbors. Myisha has been working with Washington university,Sierra Club,Action STL and Arch City Defenders to bring attention to the Environmental Racism in ST Louis MO and educational workshops surrounding Tenant Rights across South city neighborhoods. Myisha is one of the co-founder of the South Side Tenant Union (SSTU). Myisha also attended Gamaliel training and Gravois-Jefferson Leadership Academy in 2019. Myisha believes that housing is an human right and together can make systematic change in St Louis.
Manager of Mental Health Integration - LifeWise Stl
Sarah Caldera Wimmer, LMSW, is the Manager of Mental Health Integration at LifeWise Stl. Sarah oversees the Maternal and Youth Mental Health and Social Capital Building Programming. Sarah has her Master in Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis and over 11 years of experience specializing in working with immigrant mothers, perinatal behavioral health and community building. She is fluent in Spanish and has worked closely with immigrants in St. Louis using culturally sensitive interventions for community, groups, and individuals. Sarah co-leads a Dialectic Behavioral Therapy based group in Spanish. She received her certificate in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorders Components of Care in 2015. She is also trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model, and Motivational Interviewing. Sarah completed the Leadership Academy for Trauma Informed Care in 2017. She served on the executive board of ISPN from 2016 to 2019.
Immigrant Housing Project - St. Francis Community Services
Juan Narváez is a Nicaragüense immigrant who lived in the United States for most of his life. Juan graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's in Global Studies. In addition to belonging to the Latinx immigrant community, Juan is very passionate about immigrant and human rights. Juan is the Immigrant Housing Project Coordinator for St. Francis Community Services AmeriCorps VISTA, which focuses on capacity and resource building in order to increase access to financial integrative services and wealth-building opportunities for the immigrant community.
Storybank Organizer - Missouri Health Care for All
Britt currently works as Missouri Healthcare for All's Story Bank Organizer. They studied Public Health and English at Truman State University and are passionate about the power of narrative alongside data to promote sustainable policy change for a more equitable healthcare system for all people. Britt is a recent graduate from Continuity's intensive media training program and has created four short documentaries, one of which was an official selection of St. Louis Film Festival. As a writer, filmmaker and advocate, Britt strives to uplift the stories of those not heard in everything they create.
Bi-lingual Staff Attorney - St. Francis Community Services
Kristine joined SFCS in September 2011 after completing her Juris Doctorate and Masters in Public Policy from the University of Denver. Her focus is primarily on representing Latino clients in removal proceedings, specifically unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers, as well as assisting applicants of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In addition to practicing law, Ms. Walentik is an adjunct professor at St. Louis University School of Law teaching a course on Removal Defense. She frequently speaks to immigrant and community groups and provides Know Your Rights presentations. Ms. Walentik is a member of the St. Louis Immigrant Service Providers Network, the Archdiocese of St. Louis Immigration Task Force, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Principal Agent - Nationwide Insurance
AnaMarie was born in Mexico, where she worked for an American company and met her husband.. They relocated several times thru the years, but finally ended up relocating to their present home of St. Louis Missouri in September of 1998. AnaMarie began her insurance career in 2005 as a life insurance producer and after obtaining her Property and Casualty License, in February 2006 she started her career as a Bilingual Insurance Sales agent. In 2008, she started working as an associate Bilingual Agent where she became acquainted with the Nationwide Insurance Company. In 2009, she started her career as a Principal Agent with current Nationwide Insurance Company. With a dedicated bilingual team, she strives to build lasting relationships and provide excellent insurance consultant services for her customers. One of her primary objectives is educating the Hispanic community on Insurance offerings so they can make wise decisions. Her core of values is: "Be Kind, Work hard, Speak Truth, Love others, show Grace and Gratitude".
Community Affairs Specialist -FDIC St. Louis Field Office
Gregory E. Fitzgerald is a Community Affairs Specialist at the FDIC. With a background in urban planning and policy, Gregory has worked in community economic development for nearly the last two decades. In 2010, Gregory served as the Assistant Director of Financial Education and Asset Building at the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), the nation’s largest housing authority, in New York, NY. At NYCHA, he designed and implemented scalable programs connecting residents with safe and affordable banking products. Mr. Fitzgerald has also served as a consultant to NYC area community-based organizations to assist them with developing financial education curricula and facilitating training courses. Prior to coming to the FDIC, Gregory was a Community Planning and Development Representative at the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Connecticut. Gregory has an undergraduate degree in History from Howard University and substantial coursework towards a graduate degree in urban planning from NYU.
Staff Attorney - St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council
Sam Stragand is a staff attorney at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing
Opportunity Council (EHOC). He received his B.A. in philosophy from Grinnell College and his J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to law school, Sam served two years in Peace Corps Turkmenistan. At EHOC, Sam is the primary supervisor of the organization’s undergraduate and law student internship program. In addition to representing EHOC and individual clients in housing discrimination claims, Sam also manages the St. Louis Pro Bono Mediation Project at the St. Louis City and County housing courts. For the past two years, Sam has also worked as adjunct faculty at Washington University School of Law, assisting with the Introduction to U.S. Law and Methods course taught to international LL.M. students and co-coaching the Representation in Mediation team. This September, Sam also taught a one-credit law school course entitled “Landlord-Tenant Law, Policy, and Mediation.”
Refugio Leader - South City Church
Jared serves the Latinx community in St. Louis through a ministry called Refugio at South City Church where he teaches the Bible, develops worship resources, invests in relationship, helps immigrants navigate life in St. Louis, and gives support with accessing resources. Jared holds a B.A. in Spanish and English Writing from Belmont University, studied abroad at the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, and received a MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. He is the founder of Alabanzaré, a worship project that provides theologically rich musical resources to the global church.
Broker and Owner - Lang Realty
Jessica Tapia was born in Peru and has 2 children. She has lived in St. Louis for 17 years and has been the Broker / Owner of Lang Realty since 2012. She started her own Company and working in real estate is her greatest passion. She likes being able to help people own a home and educate them by giving them the necessary tools and guides to obtain the loan and make their dreams of come true of being a homeowner. She was a lender and worked for Midland States Bank at the beginning of 2017 until mid-2018 and then returned to real estate. Being bilingual and being able to explain everything in detail in their own language is very important to her. She wants her clients to feel comfortable and confident that their agent is doing their best for each of them. She is passionate about empowering low-income families, immigrants, and refugees in achieving self-sufficiency and sustainable housing.
Financial Social Worker - LifeWise Stl
Mayda was born and raised in Peru. When she finished high school, she and her family moved to Spain (Catalunya). There she had to learn another language, Catalan. She studied Social Education and attained a Master in Psychomotor and Education. During her time in university, she participated in a project called “Proyecto Rossinyol”, which helped the children of new immigrants learn more about native culture, language, and the city. Mayda also volunteered with an animal shelter for horses and dogs, in a hospital for people with cancer, and tutoring low-income kids. Mayda came to the U.S. to do her Master in Human Services at Webster University. She completed her practicum with St. Louis Crisis Nursery in the Latino Outreach Program where she saw the importance of helping the Latino community in St. Louis. Upon graduation, Mayda began her career as a Financial Social Worker for LifeWise formerly Kingdom House, coaching clients- most of whom are immigrants- to save money, eliminate debt, and build credit. She completed her training as a FSW in June 2017.
ITiN Mortgage Program - Montgomery Bank
Originally from Los Angeles, California, and inspired by her immigrant parents who came to the United States, Mary has a passion and commitment to help others. Now back to St. Louis, Mary found her voice in helping immigrant families become homeowners achieve their American dream. Mary is able to achieve this through the help of Montgomery Bank, where she is employed. Mary came to Montgomery Bank to run the ITIN program. Mary is a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and The Puerto Rico Society. As a non-native St. Louisan, Mary has lived in the St. Louis area since 2016, she has hit the ground running managing the successful ITIN mortgage program. She spends her days helping clients become homeowners and her evenings with her family. Her grown children make her proud and loves her grandchildren.
VP and Community Banking Manager - Busey Bank
Sandy Smith is the Vice President and Community Banking Manager, has been at Busey Bank since 2012, and has worked in the banking industry since 2003. Born and raised in Gurnee, IL, to an immigrant family of 100 percent Guatemalan descent, Sandy relocated to Godfrey in 2012 with her husband. Sandy is a graduate of Augustan College with a degree in Business Administration and minors in Marketing and Spanish.
Program Director Latino Outreach Program - SLCN
Sara Johnson-Cardona MSW, LCSW is the Program Director of the Latino Outreach Program at SLCN. She is a Spanish-speaking Latina who grew up in St. Louis. Sara earned an MSW from the Brown School at Washington University. She started the Latino Outreach Program 6 years ago. Sara is trained in the following: EMDR therapy, Dialectical-Based Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, trauma informed yoga interventions, implementing trauma informed care, suicide prevention, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and therapeutic techniques in self-compassion and mindfulness.
Saturday Nov. 16th
Artist & Community Volunteer
Celia Ruiz Calderon is a Kansas City native and Mexican national. Celia is an artist, community volunteer and owner of Iracel KC. Celia has been involved in the Kansas City Latino community for 26 years, volunteering as an individual or working for organizations serving families and individuals with low to middle income. Celia is a bilingual Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor, health advisor for Communities Concerned for Immigrants and Refugees and creator of Cuidemonos KC, a printable workbook that helps families make a plan in case of detention or deportation. Celia is married to her partner of 11 years and they are proud to call East Side Kansas City, home.
Assoc. Professor of Sociology - St. Louis University
Ness Sándoval studies spatial inequality in American cities and Latino and Immigrant Demography as an Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at Saint Louis University. He is also the Co-Director of the Ph.D. program in Public and Social Policy and the founder of the GeoSpatial Research and Innovation lab (GeoSRI) at SLU. Ness currently serves as an applied demographer and consultant to several community organizations in the Saint Louis and Midwest region.
Ness Sándoval was born in Denver, Colorado. At the age of 3, his family moved back to Scottbluff, Nebraska. Ness completed his undergraduate and master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After completing his masters degree he worked for Gallup as a research scientist in the Government Division. He returned to school to complete his Ph.D. degree at the University of California-Berkeley. He moved to Chicago where he was an assistant professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. He met his wife Kasia in Chicago and they have three children, Cyprian, Irenaeus, and Efrem. In 2008, Ness moved to Saint Louis where he starting working as an assistant professor at Saint Louis University. Ness is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Saint Louis University. He is also the Co-Director of the Ph.D. program in Public and Social Policy. He is the founder of the GeoSpatial Research and Innovation lab (GeoSRI) at SLU. He has two primary research interests: the intersection of Demographic Techniques and Computational Spatial Science to study spatial inequality in American cities and Latino and Immigrant Demography. Ness currently serves as an applied demographer and consultant to several community organizations in the Saint Louis and Midwest region.
Asst. Professor Sociology - Washington University
Ariela Schachter is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on immigration, race relations, and inequality in the United States. She is currently engaged in projects spanning three main strands of research: (1) public attitudes towards immigrants; (2) racial/ethnic relations; and (3) neighborhood selection and residential inequality. Professor Schachter primarily uses experiments and causal inference methods; more recently she has begun using big data and computational text analysis in her work. She completed her B.A. at Rice University and her PhD in Sociology from Stanford University in 2016. Her work has been published in leading sociology journals, including the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, and Social Problems. She has won multiple awards, including the Louis Wirth Best Article Award from the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association.
Rev. Dr. Ruben Rosario Rodriguez
Professor of Theological Studies - St. Louis University
The Rev Dr. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez is Professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. His research and teaching interests include politics and religion, racism and racial reconciliation, with a specialization in Latin American and U.S. Latinx liberation theologies. He is the editor of the T&T Clark Handbook of Political Theology (2019) and author of Racism & God-Talk: A Latino Perspective (NYU Press, 2008).
Assoc. Clinical Professor - St. Louis University School of Law
Bartlett is a human rights attorney. Bartlett has experience litigating in state and federal court in Louisiana and Ohio, as well as filing complaints and petitions with U.N. Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ms. Bartlett’s scholarship focuses on the intersections between legal ethics, access to justice, and human rights.
Dr. Richard Middleton IV Ph.D JD
Assoc. /Adjunct Professor - UMSL, SLU & Attorney at Law
Dr. Middleton is a tenured Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and an Adjunct Professor of Law at St. Louis University School of Law. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and earned his JD from St. Louis University School of Law. Dr. Middleton operates a solo practice with an emphasis in immigration law and defense against minor criminal infractions. He is licensed before the Bar of Missouri and the Federal District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. Dr. Middleton serves as a volunteer attorney for the MICA Project of St. Louis, Missouri and also provides basic legal consultations for clients of the Latino Outreach Project of Crisis Nursery.
Associate Professor, History and Geography - Lindenwood University
Ted Cohen has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is an Associate Professor of history at Lindenwood University. He is a cultural and intellectual historian of Mexico, Latin America and the African Diaspora. He has published articles on the relationship between Mexican and African American art and music during the Harlem Renaissance, the racialization of “La bamba” in the United States and Mexico, and African American ethnographer and dancer Katherine Dunham’s trips to Mexico. In May 2020, Cambridge University Press will publish his book Finding Afro-Mexico: Race and Nation after the Revolution.
Assoc. Professor History - St. Louis University
Torrie Hester is an associate professor in the Department of History at Saint Louis University. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Oregon. Her book, Deportation: Origins of U.S. Policy, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) examines the national and international origins of U.S. deportation policy between 1875 and 1924. She has published on more contemporary deportations in places such as The Washington Post and The Journal of American History.
Adjunct Professor - Washington University
Winifred R. Poster teaches in International Affairs at Washington University, St. Louis. Her interests are in digital globalization, feminist labor theory, and technologies of activism. With a regional focus on South Asia, she follows outsourcing of high tech and call center firms from the US to India. Her research looks at ethnographic transformations in ICT service work, through automation, artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing, and virtual assistants. She also has projects on surveillance, national borders, and cybersecurity. She is co-author of Invisible Labor (UC Press) and Borders in Service (University of Toronto Press). Her work appears in recent books Captivating Technology (Duke University Press) and DigitalSTS (Princeton University Press).
Assoc. Professor of History & Director of Latinx Studies — UMSL
Deborah Cohen, Associate Professor of History/Director of Latinx Studies at University of Missouri-St. Louis, brings questions of race, gender, imperialism, and labor to bear on nation-state formation and other political projects. Her first book, Braceros (University of North Carolina, 2011; paperback, 2013) reveals the paradoxes of modernist political economies and the predicaments of transnational subjects in the United States and Mexico; whereas her new project, “Loyalty and Betrayal,” examines how transnational migration reshaped the pressures and pleasures of affective ties of family, race, ethnicity, and people-ness. She is working on three co-authored books: on women’s participation in Mexico ’68; a global ’68 history; and one that uses Zorro films to map shifting imaginaries of political projects, economic orders, and notions of social justice.
Artist & Performer
Elisa Bender is a 1st generation Hispanic-American and born of Bolivian-descent. With over 30 years experience, Elisa Bender has been a devoted artistic dancer and performer of Bolivia, Mexican and Spanish dance. As a Rams Cheerleader, she performed in Japan, Bahamas and Las Vegas. She was also the Artistic Director of the Hispanic Cultural Dancers whom performed at various festivals and events. Elisa Bender teaches Hispanic dance for special events and functions. For over 20 years, Elisa Bender has been an active volunteer in the Hispanic Community. She is a Board Member and Fund Development Coordinator of the Hispanic Festival, Inc., non-profit organization that presents Hispanic Festivals and Hispanic events throughout St. Louis. Elisa Bender was also the co-founder along with her mother, Haniny Hillberg, of the Diversity Career Network, a corporation that coordinated job fairs for Hispanics and bilinguals. Elisa Bender also founded Latinx Arts Network in 2017, a first of it’s kind, which brings together artists and art advocates to support and encourage Latinx arts in the Greater St. Louis area. As a full time career, she is a Sales Representative for a large corporation. Most recently, Elisa Bender is a breast cancer survivor. Her mentor and most influential person in her life is her mother, Haniny Hillberg, who is very active in the Hispanic Community herself. She taught her to remember where you came from, appreciate the Hispanic Culture and other cultures, and always strive to be the best person you can be.
A visual artist with a background in business, Eliana was born in Colombia and has been living in Saint Louis since 1999, a town that became her home. She has been interested in art all her life and the enjoyment that is involved in the creation. Her art subjects include the women, honoring her mother who passed in 2003, the Wayúu culture, Colombian folklore, the celebration of the cycle of life, nature, and the woman ability to conceive. Her media include oil, acrylic, charcoal, mixed media, digital, photography, bookbinding, audiovisuals. She has participated in exhibitions with different Missouri and Illinois organizations like Regional Arts Commission, Missouri History Museum, Foundry Art Center, MIRA Foundation, St. Louis Public Library, Schmidt Art Center, Southern Illinois Health Foundation, Alfa Foundation, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, among others. Eliana works for a local software company and she holds an MA and MFA from Fontbonne University.
Dr. Mary R.
Racial Justice Director - YWCA of Metro St. Louis
Mary R Ferguson is Racial Justice Consultant to the YWCA Metro St. Louis. Her background includes teaching and administration at a number of private and public universities. Mary came to higher education after years in preK-12 education, adult and community education, arts education, and English Language learning. Mary brings extensive knowledge of the non-profit and human services world to her work as well. Locally, she has been connected with NCCJ, ADL, Focus St. Louis, and the DAP. She provided training to the Ferguson Commission and remains connected to the work of Forward Through Ferguson. Mary is a St. Louis native with a commitment to lifelong learning, engaged citizenship, and equity and social justice. She earned a doctorate in education with an emphasis in social justice from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is a proud mother and mentor to many in the social justice arena.
Program Manager - MIRA
Rita Chang (she/her) is a first-generation Taiwanese-American from St. Louis, MO. Rita graduated from Beloit College in 2018 with a B.A. in sociology. She has participated in research about community-based learning practices in higher education and meaningful and memorable learning experiences of first-year college students. Her academic and professional interests are in social movements, human rights, immigration, and education. Rita has studied at US/Mexico border, learning about bi-national organizations that serve groups on both sides of the border, an experience that has been funded by the Weissberg Foundation Program in Human Rights and Social Justice. Rita is passionate about challenging systems of oppression and changing the narrative about immigrants and refugees in Missouri.
De La Garza
Lead Teacher - St. Francis Community Services
Liliana works as the lead teacher for the after school program at Saint Francis Community Services. This is her fifth school year with the organization. She is currently also completing her bachelors degree at UMSL with a goal to pursue a Masters in Social Work thereafter. As an immigrant herself, she knows programs like the one are vital for immigrants and communities as a whole.
Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator - St. Francis Community Services
Gabby Eissner (she/her) is the Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator at St. Francis Community Services. St. Francis walks with our vulnerable neighbors to create opportunities, to build resiliency, and to advocate for justice. They have a special focus on legal services, immigrant services, and Pathways to Progress. Gabby will be spending the next year at St. Francis as a Loretto Volunteer. She recently spent a week at Casa Alitas, a migrant shelter in Tucson. She is looking forward to sharing her experience at the MIRA Conference.