Meet the Staff

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

Meet the Staff


Interim 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.


Graduate Assistant - Victoria Mendiola

Hi, my name is Victoria Mendiola. I am from Brighton Park, a neighborhood located on the southwest side of Chicago. I am a first-generation graduate student in the Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Family Services. Last May, I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work and a minor in Latinx Studies from UIUC. While I was an undergrad, I worked as a student staff member at La Casa, so it feels great to be a part of La Casa as a Graduate Assistant this semester! I am a part of the Latinx Social Work Student Association and LUCHA, which is an organization dedicated to supporting Latinx graduate students. Apart from being a student, I enjoy hanging out with friends, drinking coffee, writing, meditating, and reading.

I am at La Casa Monday-Friday in room 216. Feel free to drop-in and chat! I look forward to all the wonderful things to come this semester.


DACA Mentor - Carmen Hernandez



Meet the Student Staff


Bianca Perez

¡Bienvenidos! I am Bianca Rosa Perez, originally from Hanover Park, IL. I am a first-generation senior double majoring in Clinical Psychology and Latina/Latino Studies. In the future, I will combine my studies and my passion for social justice as a social worker or school/community psychologist that works with Latinx adolescents and young adults.
I am an artist, activist, and performer. I live for being interdisciplinary in as many ways as I can, whether it is in my career path, my art that intersects between Latinidad, feminism, and activism, or in the workshops and performances I create.
Although I interned for La Casa this summer, this is my first year working here. As someone who grew up feeling “ni de aquí, ni de allá” for most of my life, I finally found a supportive Latinx community in college through La Casa and MEChA. I am so excited to pay forward the strength and comfort that La Casa has provided. You are welcome to chat with me!


Andres Diaz

Hello, my name is Andres Diaz. I was born and raised in Gage Park, the south side of Chicago. I am currently a sophomore in the College of Division of General Studies. I am also fulfilling the prerequisites for the nursing program. Nursing 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. As a new staff member for La Casa, I am looking 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 sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am currently undeclared, however interested on majoring in Linguistics and minoring in Computer Science. I was born in Mexico, but when I came to the United States I was raised in Burbank, IL.  I aspire to work with artificial intelligence in the future in order to help, other Latinx students have interest in the field. This is my second semester working at La Casa Cultural Latina, and I am excited to be back to my home away from home.





Stephanie Ruizesparza

Hey y’all! My name is Stephanie Ruizesparza. A Southside Chicagoan, I was born and raised in the Gage Park neighborhood. I’m a senior pursuing a double major in Global Studies, focusing on government policies and human rights, and Latina\os Studies. I love learning new languages, traveling, and appreciating different cultures. My dream is to work abroad either doing diplomatic work or working for refugees and migrants. My end goal is doing work for the United Nations. After accomplishing these goals I’d like to give back to my community and help other Latinx students reach their own. If you see me around La Casa, please stop by and talk to me, I love new friends :D





Cristal Caballero

Hey folks! I’m Cristal Caballero. I grew up on the  south side of Chicago. I’m currently a sophomore pursuing a Political Science and Global Studies major.
My interests include volunteering, playing soccer, and traveling. I’ve traveled to Honduras, Colombia and Costa Rica. Traveling is the reason why I’m pursuing both political science and Global Studies. It has made me realize that I am in a privileged position and i should give back to our global and local communities. That politics are an important aspect in our everyday lives because it is policies that are in place in which affect our communities.
This will be my first year working at La Casa. So if you see me at La Casa, please say hi! I hope  La Casa ends up feeling like your home away from home, just as it was my first year here. 


Kayla Martinez

Buenas! My name is Kayla Martínez and I was born and raised on the northwest side neighborhood of Hermosa in Chicago. I am a first-gen Senior majoring in Journalism with a History specialization and minor in Communications.
Throughout my undergraduate career, I have moved from working at the campus radio station and writing feature stories to becoming more heavily involved in organizing with the Latinx community. This will be my third year working at La Casa and second year organizing with MEChA.
As a Latina journo with strong ties to the Latinx community, I hope to focus my future work with community storytelling and advocacy, all while toward holding those in power accountable through the work of civic journalism. Wherever the wind blows, I hope to continue to give what I can to the community in whatever way it may look like. I am your neighborhood friendly cumbia enthusiast and I love Spider-Man. La Casa is home, and I’m excited to be around for one more year to help others feel safe, loved and welcomed as a part of the campus community.


Juan-Carlos Bautista

Saludos, My name is Juan-Carlos Bautista. I am currently a junior studying political science and history at the University of Illinois. Streamwood is where I call home. It's right next to Elgin and Schaumburg. Hopefully that helps. I enjoy photography, traveling, and useless facts. I am really excited for the annual Paleta Social. If you ever see me around don't be afraid to say hola!






Juan Luna Nuñez

Juan Luna is a current fourth year student majoring in Urban Studies and Planning. From the Southwest Side of Chicago, Archer Heights, and I am deeply interested in city planning concerns, specifically housing issues regarding gentrification and lack of affordable housing. One of my main goals post graduation is to construct several affordable housing, multi-family unit buildings throughout Chicago neighborhoods in order to help tackle the issue of ethnic and racial displacement of minorities in cities. I also hope to work with the City's department of transportation to increase accessibility of public transit throughout various neglected communities. Other interests of mine include Chicago based hip-hop artists and musicians, eating (A LOT), Chicago history and cultural movements throughout the city, and biking.




Brenda Anaya

Hi everyone! My name is Brenda Anaya and I am a sophomore here at UIUC. I am studying business and I am also minoring in Spanish. I am currently an undeclared business student, but I am hoping to major in accountancy or finance. I was born and raised in the south side of Chicago in a town known as Little Village. I am the first person to attend college in my family. One of my main goals in the future is to be able to help the Latino community financially. I am passionate about doing service to help others and meet new people.
Apart from working at La Casa, I am also an ambassador for the Gies College of Business and I am in the Society of Women in Business organization. I started to be involved in La Casa when I attended the social justice events that it held. La Casa has helped me open my eyes and see the world in different perspectives. This is my first year working at La Casa and I am beyond excited to see what new ideas and experiences La Casa brings. I look forward to meeting everyone and welcoming you to your new home! 



Jeffrey Guaman

My name is Jeffrey Guaman and I'm going into my second year as a sophomore. I'm majoring in Statistics and I'm looking into doubling in Mathematics Teaching. I live in Chicago, Illinois and my neighborhood is called Albany Park. I love being involved with the community I live in so I try to give back to the community by volunteering in events. Also, I love playing sports during my free time. I usually volunteer in 5ks/10ks races in Chicago. My favorite sports that I play is volleyball, soccer and running. I'm looking forward to work with La Casa to help Latinx students to succeed and support them during their time at the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign.




Ricardo Zapata

Ricardo Zapata loves gardens, bees, trees, and ocean critters. In the past he has wanted to be a musician, botanist, farmer, but is now a Junior majoring in economics with minors in latinx studies and urban planning hoping to piece together different knowledges to contribute what he can to the struggles of all pathologized people.
This is Ricardo’s second year at La Casa but it still feels like he just started and he can't wait for all the events planned.