About the Pennsylvania Commission on Latino Affairs
Established by Executive Order 2015-08, the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs (GACLA) is dedicated to advising the governor on policies and legislation that impact Latino American communities. GACLA and its commissioners have proficiently served Pennsylvania’s growing Latino community since 1971. Our aim is to contribute to the governor’s goal of government that works, schools that teach, and jobs that pay.
The commission is composed of twenty volunteer members appointed by the governor for a term of two years.
Luz Colon – Executive Director
María Teresa Donate – Commission Chair
Amaris Hernandez – Commission Vice Chair
Iris M. Cintrón
Luz Maria Cotes
Carlos Adolfo Gonzalez
Francisco Aranda Torres
Marisol L. Torres, MBA
Pedro Anes, a native of Puerto Rico, brings 10+ years’ experience as President of the Latino American Alliance and Chairman of the Scranton Human Relations Commission.
Pedro is a Business owner, US Army Retired Veteran, holds a Master’s Degree in Management and is working on a Ph.D. in Human Development.
Iris M. Cintrón
Mrs. Iris M. Cintrón is a graduate of West Chester University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. She graduated from Lehigh University with a Master’s degree in Secondary Education.
She has recently retired from the Bethlehem Area School District where she served for 37 years as a teacher, counselor, school social worker and administrator. She held the position of supervisor of minority affairs, governmental programs and grants for the last 18 years. Mrs. Cintrón has always been active in community organizations such as the Hispanic Center LV formally the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations, Community Services for Children – Head Start, Northampton County Children and Youth, the Puerto Rican Cultural Organization, Northampton County Interim Board of Health, Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley (FQHC), and Puerto Rican Beneficial Society. She was the recipient of the United Way of the Lehigh Valley Lifetime Service Award, Lehigh University Lamp and Learning Award, Northampton County Community College award for Distinguished Service to the Community, the National Coalition of Title I Parents VIP Award for Exemplary Service to Title I Children, Bethlehem Partnership for a Healthy Community Recognition for Outstanding Support to the Partnership, and the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society award for Dedicated Community Service.
Luz B. Colon epitomizes integrity, hard work and passion for service in every detail of Community Service for the last 15 years for the City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania in various Governmental roles.
Luz grew up in North Philadelphia, in the Kensington section, the very same community in where her roots were planted and continues to serve. Luz’s cultural background and focus on community collaboration has led her to a number of volunteer opportunities and community and government leadership roles.
In March of 2016, Luz was named by Governor Tom Wolf as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission for Latino Affairs (GACLA). Luz has embraced this state-wide leadership role with typical vigor and charm, strongly connecting with near and distant Latino communities throughout Pennsylvania. Luz also has had the pleasure to work for council members such as the former Councilman Angel L. Ortiz and current Council members, Blondell Reynolds Brown & Bill Greenlee. Her position with Councilman Greenlee specically allowed her to grow into a signicant leadership role. These positions have allowed her to service the needs and bridge the gap between the government and the community.
Through her role as the Governor Wolf’s Latino liaison and her other government and leadership roles, Luz has organized innumerable community events all over the city and state to bring her many resources to help communities. A highlight of her accomplishments locally is that she was one of the founders of the Philadelphia 76ers La Liga Del Barrio Basketball League Organization. Where her leadership role was recognized by Philadelphia City Council in 2015.
As a Latina, she represents the Latino Community and Luz assumes personal responsibility to bring forth and showcase what the Latino community is doing in a positive light here in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. She is a current member of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Woman (NACOPRW). She’s also dedicated 15 years as a committee person for the 20th Ward and 10th Division. And in 2014, Luz was invited to sit on the Philadelphia Fight Advisory Board, the largest HIV/AIDS comprehensive medical care organization in the Philadelphia area. She is also on the Latino Advisory Committee for Visit Philly.
Sonny Concepcion Sr.
My name is Sonny Concepcion Sr. I am a native of Carolina Puerto Rico and moved to Erie Pennsylvania in 1991. I have been an active advocate for the Latino Community since 1993.
Presently I am Coordinator for High Impact Prevention , Northwest Rural Aids Alliance here in Erie and also the Pastor for Iglesia Bautista El Calvario FG also the Western District Overseer for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International . My professional experience has led me from Drug and Alcohol Counseling to Youth Behavioral Specialist and Employment Specialist for at-risk Teenagers. My experience with community forums includes the PA State Latino Commission, PA Department of Health HIV Planning Committee, President of Parent Education Committee for the PA Migrant Education Program, Erie Latino Task Force and Secretary of The Latino Tri-State Pastor Association.
Luz Maria Cotes
Luz Maria Cotes is a native of Puerto Rico. Having been raised in multicultural environments, Luz is well equipped to understand the daily challenges faced by people from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic statuses.
Beyond her professional life, she is heavily involved in helping her community by doing volunteer work and serving others by contributing to the enhancement of their social environment. Luz’s commitment is to the residents of Pittsburgh and the greater Pennsylvania area, particularly to the less fortunate in our society. Her mandate is to provide assistance to members of the Latin community.
For the last 15 years, Isamac has been a staunch supporter and advocate for education. During the early part of her career, Isamac directed and managed a Vocational E.S.L. adult workforce training program addressing disparities within healthcare by increasing the number of bilingual, bicultural certified nurse aides within various communities of Pennsylvania.
Her program was created by a well established non-profit organization and funded by several state departments such as: Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Aging and Health.
In 2009, her focus broaden to include youth and their families by working with her husband to establish the first non-profit, brick and mortar charter high school for at risk youth in Berks County called I-LEAD Charter School. Their passion and purpose was to increase high school graduation rates in the poorest city of Pennsylvania, Reading, PA. Isamac co-created a parental training program with executives at I-LEAD called P.O.D.E.R. (People Organizing for Democracy, Equity and Responsibilities) to educate parents and community members on “how to navigate” the local educational system. In addition to this parental program, Isamac was asked to create and manage an Oral Health Task Force of industry stakeholders who would work to establish a school-based oral health center within the charter school.
Isamac lives in her hometown of Reading, PA with her husband, Angel, and their two beautiful daughters, Olivia and Natalia. She is a 1991 graduate of Reading High School, proud alumni of Albright College where she attained a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration. Among all her awards and certificates, Isamac is most proud of her volunteer work with the following groups: Co-founder Millersville University student group S.O.L.A. (Society On Latino Affairs) ; Co-founder and current Vicechair P.D.L.C. (Pennsylvania Democratic Latino Caucus) ; Former School Board Director of Reading School District Board of Directors.
María Teresa Donate
María Teresa Donate, Professor of Counseling, joined the Northampton Community College staff in 1992 as Director of Admissions. Her success in academia and her desire to support others have led her to be a compassionate support for students and a valuable asset to the community.
Professor Donate previously served as Student Affairs Coordinator at the University of Central Florida and Director of Admissions at Inter American University in Puerto Rico. Obtained a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling from Inter American University and a Bachelor degree in Social Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude.
The number of committees and organizations to which Professor Donate belongs or chaired are staggering. Among the professional organizations joined are the following: Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Phi Delta Kappa Society, National Association of College Admission Counselors, and American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Counselors. Served as president of Latino Leadership Alliance of the Lehigh Valley and former Chair of Latino Economic Council of LVEDC. Appointed to the Bethlehem Area School District Diversity Committee; Co-Chair of Northampton Community College’s (NCC) Diversity Committee; served on the Board of Governors of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and is currently a Board member of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Her passion for education served as a driving force to establish several scholarship funds to assist Latino students in pursue of higher education. Among them are: establishment of the Blanca Smith Scholarship Fund; Mario José Donate Torres Memorial Endowment and Hispanic Caucus Dreamers Scholarship Endowment; advocated for the creation of NCC – Latino Leadership Alliance full tuition scholarship. During her tenure as President of the Latino Leadership Alliance established the organization’s scholarship endowment, securing a permanent funding source that will benefit many Latino students in the future.
She was instrumental in the organization of the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition (PSLC) group. As a result of her leadership and fundraising initiatives, Lehigh Valley was selected as the site for the 2003 PSLC Conference. The Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau awarded her the Zenith Award for “an outstanding contribution through involvement with a convention in the Lehigh Valley”.
She was recognized at NCC as Club Advisor of the Year. During her tenure as Chair of the NCC Hispanic Caucus, the group received the “Chairman’s Award” for the efforts in starting a scholarship fund for students of color.
The former Hispanic Business Council of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce recognized her with the “Good Turn Award” for dedicated commitment to the youth of the Lehigh Valley. Was also recognized by The Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations of the Lehigh Valley with the “2003 Educator of the Year” award for “leadership, dedication, and compassion to inspire, encourage, and assist others achieve their dreams and goals through higher education”. Professor Donate also received the Penn State University Lehigh Valley’s OLEAD Program award for her leadership role in the field of education; for commitment and service to the Latino population, and vision for empowering Latinos as an economic growth strategy for the region’s prosperity.
Leadership Lehigh Valley recognized her with the 2011 Paragon Alumni Award, an award of excellence established to honor an outstanding graduate of the leadership program whose efforts have improved the quality of life in the Lehigh Valley through leadership and commitment to the community. Was selected for this award because of her leadership and efforts to inspire and assist others to achieve their dreams and goals through education.
Latino Leadership Alliance of the Lehigh Valley recently awarded her “Lenses of Knowledge Education Award” for a leader who has walked the extra mile to ensure that Latino children can view the world through lenses of knowledge. Most recently the American Association of University Women awarded the “Gateway to Equity Award” for her vigorous advocacy on behalf of the Lehigh Valley Latino community.
In 2006, she was one of eleven individuals across the state chosen by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs (GACLA); appointed to serve two terms. Additionally, was appointed as Co-Chair of the Summit Planning Committee of the PA Committee on Educational Excellence for Latino Students.
Most significantly, Teresa is recognized on campus and in the community as a vigorous advocate for the rights of people of color. Her initiatives have generated interest and open dialogue about issues of diversity, bilingualism, hiring practices, scholarship fundraising and others.
She is married to Ricardo Orench and has three children: Teresita, Assistant Chief Counsel of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission; Ricardito who recently started his career as Chemical Engineer and Ivette, currently pursuing an RN degree and employed by Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Jose Giral is a native of Puerto Rico and was raised in Brooklyn NY. He attended and graduated from William H. Maxwell Career and Technical school. After graduation he entered the workforce where he gained irreplaceable knowledge, wisdom and valuable lessons. Relocating to the Philadelphia region in 1999 he brought his wealth of business experiences which catapulted his success as a 16 year business owner.
Jose’s interest in community engagement, government and policy lead to his appointment by Governor Tom Wolf to serve as a commissioner in the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs where Jose assisted Latinos with having gain full access to all opportunities afforded to citizens of the commonwealth. Jose is an elected Democratic Committeeman in the Philadelphia Democratic party and appointed to serve as a board member to ASPIRA, inc., a leading organization dedicated to Hispanic education in the nation.
Carlos Adolfo Gonzalez
Originally from the Dominican Republic and raised in the United States, Carlos Adolfo Gonzalez is a passionate scholar, speaker, and advocate. As a DACA beneficiary, his commitment to immigrant rights is rooted in his experience living undocumented.
With perseverance, hard work, and a strong support system, Gonzalez overcame a language barrier, financial hardship, and undocumented states to graduate from Harrisburg Area Community College and later Amherst College. Most people faced with similar challenges are not so fortunate. Hence, Gonzalez feels a strong sense of responsibility to create opportunities for hard working people like his mother.
His professional background is in community organizing, advocacy, and public policy. Since graduating from college, Gonzalez worked as an organizing trainer for the United States Student Association before mobilizing unlikely voters to affirm raising the state minimum wage as a Field Coordinator for Raise Illinois. He then drafted federal policy as a Lantos Legislative Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to joining Church World Service as an employment specialist. He also organized the first statewide gathering of undocumented youth and led advocacy efforts for the Pennsylvania DREAM Act. Additionally, he often writes in the New York Times, Lancaster Newspaper, The Conversation, and Mitú on immigration and Latino affairs. Gonzalez also served on the Adelante Education Committee, the board of the Feakins Foundation, and the Youth Panel of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and Tsinghua University in China as a Schwarzman Scholar. His story was featured in a CNBC documentary.
Currently, he strengthens the advocacy capacity of community-based organizations throughout the commonwealth as the Statewide Capacity Building Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition, a diverse coalition of over 50 member organizations advocating for immigrant and refugee rights. Gonzalez is proud to represent Lancaster County on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs. As a millennial, first-generation college graduate, and undocumented Pennsylvanian, Gonzalez brings a unique perspective and skill set to the work of the Commission as it strives to empower and uplift our Latino community.
Juvencio Gonzalez is a Special Assistant for Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack representing Veterans, Community Outreach, Latino Affairs and International Relations.
He serves on the Congressional Gold Medal National Initiative for the Borinqueneers and Latin American Post 840 of the American Legion. Juvencio is a Vietnam Era US Marine Corps Veteran.
Amaris Hernandez is an Information Systems professional, working out of the Delaware Valley for over 13 years. She is a Philadelphia native, and participated in the Pennsylvania Ballet for ten years in productions throughout the city. Amaris attended Central High School, and then earned a Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and Technology from Drexel University.
Amaris started her professional career as a Data Manager with the School District of Philadelphia. At the District, she worked with the Even Start Family Literacy program where she oversaw the client management system for state funding and facilitated technology courses to parents in the community. After serving 8 years with the District, Amaris began consulting for Bank of America as a Systems Administrator. At Bank of America, Amaris managed the production and job tracking system for an internal advertising agency.
For the last 9 years, Amaris has been an active member of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, a national organization that serves the community through workshops, mentoring, scholarships and leadership development. Through NACOPRW, she volunteers in the local Latino community and partners with countless organizations throughout the city. One of her goals is to raise awareness for women in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Amaris is currently the President of the Greater Philadelphia chapter.
In January 2014, Amaris joined Philadelphia Energy Solutions, as a Senior Systems Analyst overseeing HR and contractor management systems.
In 2010, she was nominated by Impacto Newspaper as one of the “40 Most Influential Leaders in the Delaware Valley”. In 2015, Amaris was selected to attend Google’s National Women’s Day in New York with women from around the nation working in technology positions. She continues to advocate for more young women to enter technology fields and serves as a mentor to high school students in the city.
As of February 1, 2016, Carol Obando-Derstine is the new Regional Affairs Director at PPL Electric Utilities. Prior to her current position, she worked for U.S. Senator Bob Casey as his Regional Manager in Berks, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton Counties as well as his statewide Latino Affairs Advisor from 2011 until January 2016. In August 2015, Carol also became a member of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.
Before joining Senator Casey’s office in 2011, she worked in the nonprofit sector for about fifteen years most recently as Executive Director of the Children’s Coalition of the Lehigh Valley and Executive Director of SkillsUSA Council. She has also worked as an instructor for Northampton Community College’s New Choices/New Options Program and Director of Women and Family Services for El Club Del Barrio in Newark, New Jersey.
Carol also has had a long history of involvement in the community. Current and past efforts include volunteering with the Girls Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Vice President of Education and Treasurer for SpeakEZ Toastmasters Club, Nazareth Exchange Club and Bethlehem Coalition for Quality Education. She has also volunteered on several local, county, state and national elections.
In June 2016, she will be receiving the Lehigh Valley Business Forty Under 40 Award. Last year she received the 2015 Delaware Valley’s Most Influential Latinos Award and in 2012 was awarded the Education Policy Leadership Center Distinguished Alumni Award.
She earned a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Cultural Anthropology from Rutgers University and a M.A. in Community Psychology and Social Change from Pennsylvania State University. She is a graduate of Leadership Lehigh Valley in 2006, Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2010 and Ready to Lead-Northeast Training in 2014. In July 2015, she completed her Certificate of Nonprofit Management from Rutgers University in their Graduate School of Public Administration. Carol resides in Center Valley, the southern part of the Lehigh Valley, with her husband and two children.
Dr. Natalia Ortiz
Dr. Natalia Ortiz is the Chief of Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry for Temple University Hospital and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry for Lewis-Katz Temple School of Medicine.
She is a fellow to the American Psychiatry Association, Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine and The Philadelphia College of Physicians. She is board certified in Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine. She is a board member to Philadelphia Medical Society and has served as a Delegate to Pennsylvania Medical Society. She is the current President of Society of Ibero Latin American Medical Professionals for the Delaware Valley. She is also a commissioner to the Governor’s Advisory Commission for Latino Affairs in Pennsylvania. Her area of expertise is the manifestation of stress through physical symptoms and the diagnosis and treatment of behaviors due to medical conditions.
Joanna Otero-Cruz serves as Deputy Managing Director for the Community Services cabinet. Within this post, Mrs. Otero-Cruz leads and oversees’ operations for 311, the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), and the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Services and Town Watch Integrated Services.
Prior to coming to the City she served in key leadership roles for organizations that serve and meet the needs of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable.
Most recently, Mrs. Otero-Cruz led Pennsylvania’s oldest Latino non-profit organization, Concilio, since 2010, serving as community leader and voice for the needs of women, children, and families across the state. As the Executive Director of Concilio, she oversaw the organization’s foster care services, youth development programming, and children’s health work. She also led the organization and Latino community’s historic events – the Hispanic Fiesta and the Puerto Rican Week Festival culminating with the Latino Parade on Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway.
In 2014, she led the relocation of Concilio from its home of nearly 45 years to a brand-new 30,000 square-foot facility in the Hunting Park neighborhood. She is credited with bringing Concilio into a position of strong financial health, as well as building on the capacity and goodwill of the organization among the civic and public leaders of the city and state, and the community members that utilize its services.
Mrs. Otero-Cruz is an active and respected voice for equity and access at the city and state level.
She serves as Pennsylvania Commissioner for the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and currently serves on the CEIBA Coalition where she has held various officer positions over the past five years. Her leadership in the area of victim’s services earned Concilio the new appointment of East Division Victims Services’ provider by the City of Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Mrs. Cruz is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Community Impact Award from the Hispanic Choice Awards, Philadelphia’s Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award, KYW Women’s Achievement Award, and Aetna Healthcare – Latina Leadership Award.
Mrs. Otero-Cruz holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Peirce College in Business Administration with a concentration in management.
Francisco Aranda Torres
Mr. Torres-Aranda has over 15 years experience in engineering research and development of high performance safety and building products. He has served as President/CEO of Advanced-Tec Materials since 2007 after his father’s untimely passing.
In 2012 and then again in 2014 his company’s product development work has been highlighted by the Marcellus Shale Coalition as being showcase technology for its cutting edge innovation in the oil,natural gas, and energy industry. Prior to serving as President/CEO, he served as Vice President of Product Development for ATM, spearheading projects which included a research and development program with the prestigious Penske racing organization based in Mooresville, NC. Prior to working at Advanced-Tec, Mr. Torres-Aranda, was co-founder and served as Vice President of Innovative Ash Applications Corp., a company that worked with several power utility companies including UGI Utilities Inc. in order to find beneficial uses for the coal- combustion by-products generated at their power plants. While still in college, Mr. Torres-Aranda worked with the US Department of Health and Human Services as a liaison between the immigrant community and various regional health organizations.
His territory included all of Northeastern Pennsylvania, from the northern tier counties to Williamsport, and east to the New Jersey border. His research interests include the beneficial utilization of coal-combustion byproducts, high-performance automotive/racing technology, and astronomy (his research into quasar theory won an international award and was published in a European science journal when he was still in eight grade.) His educational background includes Pre-Med, (with an emphasis on biochemistry and biology) and Mechanical Engineering. Currently, Mr. Torres-Aranda serves on the board of Hazleton Integration Project (HIP) a non-profit founded by Joe Maddon, coach of the Chicago Cubs, that is focused on the strengthening of community relations in Hazleton and its surrounding communities. He is fully fluent in both business and conversational English and Spanish. Additionally, he maintains residences in both Northeastern Pennsylvania (Eagle Rock Resort), and Quintana Roo (Cancun), Mexico.
Marisol L. Torres, MBA
Marisol’s extensive experience in both the public and private sector allows her to understand the many different challenges and goals individuals may have.
Lorna Velazquez became the Community Outreach Coordinator at Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo Law Firm in February 2017. She has three delightful daughters. Lorna is a native of Brooklyn, New York.
She has lived in what she calls paradise, Bethlehem, for the past 22 years. Lorna is a veteran of the US Army, and the vast majority of her career and passion has been working in the social services field. Lorna has used her life experiences as the catalyst for being a model of how a person can overcome obstacles; contribute to their community and work hard to be at their best.
Lorna’s most recent accomplishments took place during her tenure at the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley. She was the driving force in continuing to develop new and existing partnerships. Lorna led the center to embrace a new paradigm. Her strong leadership led to the development of the Hispanic Center’s Food Pantry. Lorna worked hand in hand with community partners on projects that have resulted in a beautiful Senior Center garden and the addition of a mural in the Senior Center. She led efforts to transform an aging senior center into an attractive new space. Lorna also helped organize and manage the board’s efforts to establish the Fowler Community Wellness Center. She is determined to listen to our community and work with partners to build a strong, vibrant center that empowers and offers clients the opportunity to be all they can be.
Lorna has proudly joined the team at Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo as she immediately connected with their mission to protect, educate and care for our community.
Lorna currently serves on the Hispanic Chamber Board of Directors.
For more information about the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, please contact:
Luz B. Colon / Executive Director
200 South Broad Street 11th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102