Meet the Staff (Conozcan al Personal)
Director - Mariana Ortega
Assistant Director - Jorge Mena
Jorge Mena was born in Jalisco, Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was 8 years old. He has recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with an MA in Latin American and Latino Studies. His research focused on undocumented and queer youth activism and how the process of ‘coming out’ can lead to individual and collective identity formation. He has also been involved in the undocumented immigrant youth movement since the 2009 formation of the Immigrant Youth Justice League.
As Assistant Director of La Casa, Jorge Mena is dedicated to ensuring that students of color successfully enter, navigate, and graduate from UIUC. He has a personal commitment to engaging youth, parents, and the larger community so as to make college more accessible to first-generation, immigrant, and low-income families. Mena has advised Latinx youth organizations at both the high school and college level and will continue to serve and mentor students and alums.
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
Meet the Student Staff
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.
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.
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.
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!
¡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!
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.