Meet the Staff
Director – Dr. Gioconda “Gio” Guerra Pérez
Born and raised in Panama, Gioconda joined La Casa in August 2013. Before joining La Casa, she served as visiting assistant professor at Indiana University Southeast (IUS), School of Education and as Socio-Cultural specialist for the New Neighbors Center at IUS. She has taught courses on Multicultural Education, Current Social Issues in Education, and Intercultural Relations. She has developed and delivered professional development/workshops on issues related to institutional barriers affecting Latino/a college students; undocumented/DACA students: policies and practices; as well as intersectionality & identity. Gio has also developed curricula for K-12 schools to work with Latino families and English Language Learners (ELL). She has provided professional development for K-12 teachers on issues related to ELL and Latino/a students and their cultures. She received a M.A in Sociology and Communication and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development both from the University of Louisville. She attended the Universidad de Panamá, Panama where she studied Journalism. Her professional and personal interest has been finding ways to help Latino students to achieve higher education.
Assistant Director – Jorge Mena
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.
Assistant Director – Araceli Diaz
Araceli Diaz was born and raised in various neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a major in Sociology and minors in Latina/o Studies and Gender & Women's Studies. After working as a college access advisor at Benito Juárez Community Academy High School in Pilsen, she pursued her master's degree in Education Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and focused her thesis on the importance of first generation student retention in an increasingly diverse nation. She spent time in Hawai'i as a volunteer before moving to Northern California to become the first Coordinator of Humboldt State University's new Latin@ Center for Academic Excellence.
Araceli is happy to return to her alma mater and dedicated to empowering students to pursue their interests at UIUC and beyond. Taking a holistic approach to student success, she looks forward to collaborating across different offices and departments to ensure that all students obtain the support they deserve.
Office Support Associate – Nadja Robot
Meet the Student Staff
Pedro Flores Jr
As an artist, I am a lover of all things music and art. On my free time, you can find me playing the piano at La Casa or dancing with my team 2xs Caliente, a Latin dance group on campus.
As a first generation college student, La Casa has not only provided me with resources to excel in academia, but has also provided a home in a place where I often felt misplaced. These are a few of the reasons why I chose to return as a student staff member this year. I am confident that La Casa will provide you all with the same unconditional love and support to combat your struggles, and achieve all that you are capable of as students and members of our community!
I am currently studying Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Spanish and Chemistry. I am a first generation student born in Jalisco, Mexico but raised in the North side of Chicago. My personal goal is to someday become a Pediatrician or a Family Doctor and find a way to help the Latino Community with medical care. I am extremely passionate about helping out the community in any way possible. This is my third year working at La Casa, and it has been the best experience ever. It is my home away from home, and I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from La Casa’s welcoming environment. If you see me around at La Casa don’t hesitate to say hello or ask any questions, I’ll be more than willing to help. I can’t wait to get this year started!
Juan M Luna Nunez
A current third year student majoring in Urban and Regional Planning. From the southwest side of Chicago, Archer Heights, and I am deeply interested in city planning and in housing issues such as gentrification and lack of affordable housing. One of my main goals after graduation is to construct several affordable housing, multi-family unit buildings throughout Chicago neighborhoods, and to help tackle the issue of ethnic and racial displacement of minorities in cities. I also hope to work with city's department of transportation in order to increase accessibility of city transit. Other interests of mine are Chicago based hip-hop artists and musicians, eating (A LOT), Chicago history and cultural movements throughout the city, and biking.
When I first entered UofI, I doubted my Latinidad, and felt as if I wouldn’t be accepted into La Casa. But after three Semesters of being involved in organizations such as M.E.Ch.A and The Latino Youth Conference, I’ve come to find that there’s a certain sense of acceptance offered here that is hard to find in other parts of campus. Feel free to say hello if you see me around, mi casa es su casa! (I also like lame jokes.)
Kayla is a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majoring in Journalism and minoring in Communications. Kayla grew up in the northwest side neighborhood of Hermosa in Chicago and is a first generation college student. On campus, Kayla writes for the school paper, The Daily Illini and the radio station WPGU 107.1. Kayla hopes to focus her reporting toward researching food deserts in Champaign county and the effect of new developments on long-time residents.This will be Kayla's second year working at La Casa, and she is looking forward to the endless opportunities to learn and grow from the spaces La Casa offers and being a part of a community that helps empower Latinx students in higher education.
¿Que Tal? My name is Daisy Cordelia Moran. I am from Moline, IL near the Mississippi river. I am a senior here at the University of Illinois, majoring in Psychology with a concertino in Clinical and Behavioral Neuroscience. I aspire to become a Behavioral Analyst for the FBI after completing genetic research. I’m passionate about Hispanic/Latino issues and concerns around the community. For that reason, I’m currently involved as the Secretary of Alpha Psi Lambda National, Inc. My junior year I transferred from my hometown’s community college. Being a Latina student on campus I left out of place as if I didn’t belong at this university until I found my campus home at La Casa. If you have any questions or just need someone to chat with I’m always available.
Ricardo Zapata is a sophomore majoring in Economics and Latin American Studies. He was formally a music major but is still an avid music listener and occasionally plays his trumpet. He is also interested in recording and making videos of his friends and his goings-on. His interests lie in the economies and development of Latin America. He looks forward to getting involved with the La Casa community this year.