Meet the Staff (Conozcan al Personal)

Photograph of a group of happy young people posing in a pumpkin patch. Some are holding pumpkins.

Meet the Staff (Conozcan al Personal)


Director - Mariana Ortega

My name is Mariana Ortega, and I am thrilled to be the new La Casa Director. I was born in Chiquimula, Guatemala and raised in Boaco, Nicaragua until the age of four. The majority of my life I grew up in the Miami, Florida area where my immediate family resides. Most recently, I worked at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM where I had the opportunity to revamp an Orientation program from the ground up at a Hispanic Serving Institution, while working closely with our Spanish speaking families. I earned my Bachelor's in Organizational Communications and my Master's in College Student Personnel Administration from the University of West Florida. I am a proud founding member of Alpha Chi Omega. In my free time I like to run, hang out with friends, explore new coffee shops, go shopping and spend time with my dog Harley. What I look forward to the most in my new role is being an advocate for students, serving the students on campus, and continuing to build onto the rich history La Casa is known for. 



Office Manager – Nadja Robot 


Nadja has been at La Casa Cultural Latina since 2011. She is passionate about helping students find success at Illinois and making La Casa a welcoming environment. Nadja is the president of her labor union and an activist in the community. She lives in Urbana with her partner, cats, and chickens and is working on making her front yard into a community garden. If you ever need anything at La Casa come up and see her, she's in the office with the big window on the second floor.





Undocu/DACA Mentor - Kevin F. Garcia

Hi! My name is Kevin F. Garcia and I am a senior studying Finance and I/O Psychology with a minor in Spanish as a James Scholar. I am driven by my passion to create opportunities that do not exist in my own journey and also share the ones that bless me. As a result, I serve as the President of the Illinois-Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students' Education, Co-founder and Vice-President of Prospanica: Association of Hispanic Professionals at UIUC, and a few other organizations. I am also blessed to say that I will be interning at PNC this summer. I know that my work along with my teams may only appear small, but I am confident that planting these seeds now will eventually grow into trees that contribute to giving marginalized communities oxygen in the near future! Therefore, as I continue my work in my organizations and eventually embark into my career upon graduation, I will continue to think about how I can serve my communities with my experience. This is why working with La Casa and receiving their support throughout has been fantastic!






Undocu/DACA Mentor - Nataly Esparza

Hello! My name is Nataly Esparza. I'm currently a transfer student. I received my Associates in Political Science. I'm a Pre-Law first generation student majoring in Political Science with a minor in Spanish in hopes of attending Law School. I'm a James Scholar and currently the Assistant to the Director of Governmental Affairs of the Illinois Student Government. I'm also an associate of the Public Relations Committee of Peer & Career and a DACA mentor at La Casa Cultural Latina. I am a member of I-CAUSE because it allows me to form part of an organzation that cares for the unrepresendted members of our community. I-CAUSE is a safe space. The members of I-CAUSE aim to provide the undocumented and DACAmented students with resources and opportunities to succeed and I love being able to make a difference in the lives of others through it.





Meet the Student Staff

 Andres Diaz

Hello, my name is Andres Diaz. I was born and raised in Gage Park, the south side of Chicago. I am a Junior studying community Health with a concentration in Rehabilitation. My goal is to become a nurse, which gained my interest as it involves rigorous hands on training that leads to lifelong aid for people of all ages. On my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, playing soccer, drawing, and riding bikes. I am also a member of Omega Delta Phi Fraternity Inc. I look forward to assisting students navigate through their college journey as well as helping them feel at home.






Yarit Alcantara

Hola, me llamo Yarit Alcantara. I am a Junior majoring in Linguistics and minoring in Speech and Hearing Science. I aspire to become a bilingual speech pathologist. I was born in Mexico, but when I came to the United States I was raised in Burbank, IL. On campus I am a member of Alpha Psi Lambda, which is a Co-ed fraternity. I have been part of La Casa's student staff for three semesters. It is a place where I get support and advice from both the professional and student staff. La Casa is my home away from home.






Carolina Valenzuela


Hello, my name is Carolina Valenzuela. I am from Aurora, Illinois. I am a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences with a concentration in Health Diversity. And I am minoring in Spanish. My interests include horse back riding, traveling, and baking. 






Cristal Caballero

Hello everyone! My name is Cristal Caballero, I grew up on the south side of Chicago. I’m currently a sophomore majoring in Political Science and Global Studies. I enjoy spending time with friends, going to social events on campus, listening to Bad Bunny and traveling. If you see me at La Casa, please feel free to stop and talk to me! 







Brenda Anaya

¡Hola! My name is Brenda Anaya. I am a senior majoring in Accountancy and minoring in Spanish. I am a first-generation college student born and raised in Little Village. On-campus, I am a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. I am also a Student Alumni Ambassador and a member of the Association of Latino Professionals For America. I am passionate about doing service and my goal is to provide resources to help the Latinx community financially. Working at La Casa has helped me grow both personally and professionally. I am excited to share my experiences with everyone. I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you to your new home!




Selena Salgado-Espino

My name Selena Salgado-Espino, I am from Chicago, Illinois. I am studying Human Development and Family Studies while taking pre-med courses. I'm a foodie and love to spend time with family and friends. If you have questions please feel free to ask!







Jeffrey Guaman

My name is Jeffrey Guaman, a proud Ecuadorian from Chicago! I'm a Junior majoring in Statistics, along with trying to pursue a degree in Mathematics Teaching. Aside from working at La Casa, I'm also a student supervisor for Dining Services. In my free time, I play volleyball and badminton with my friends. Some of the clubs I'm a part of are MEChA, LSA, and I-Cause.






Ricardo Lopez

Hello! I'm Ricardo Lopez, I'm from St. Louis but Texas originally before that. I love to cook, dance and learn about food and beverages. I also take any opportunity to travel and am an adept wanderer. I study food Science and Hospitality. 







Mariah Maldonado

Hola, my name is Mariah and I am from Chicago. I am a sophomore and my major is Social Work with a minor in Latina/o Studies. I love to dance, listen to music, watch movies, laugh, and being with my favorite people. In the future I hope to make change, travel around the world and go on countless adventures. 






Diana Roman

Hi! I'm Diana Roman, raised in Chicago Ridge, IL but with a strong tie to El Salto, Jalisco. I'm a first-generation college student majoring in Economics. As a sophomore I'm deciding between a minor in Spanish or Latina/Latino Studies. In my free time I enjoy watching movies, reading, hanging out with friends and family, and going to the gym. I also volunteer at the Refugee Center serving the Latinx community of Champaign and am the recruiter for I-CAUSE, an RSO that advocates for undocumented and DACAmented individuals here on campus. I'm looking forward to providing the same support to my peers and empowering Latinx students like myself through La Casa. 





Genesis Martinez


 Hello, hello! My name is Genesis Martinez and I am a first-generation Sophomore majoring in Marketing. I am a city girl, born and raised in Chicago, and a proud Venezolana. Some of my favorite hobbies are to read, shop, and spend time with my friends and family. This is my first year working at La Casa and I am very excited to help other students find their home away from home just like I did. 





Chabeli Duran

Hi! My name is Chabeli Duran, and I am a first-generation sophomore majoring in Graphic Design. First to graduate high school in my family as well! I grew up in Cicero, IL, a suburb right outside Chicago. I enjoy drawing, exercising, listening to music, and hanging out with friends and family. I hope to make a positive impact in the Latinx community by contributing my skills and efforts through La Casa and other organizations. I am very friendly, so feel free to come talk to me!