Yaniza Gallant

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Multilingual Director for East Providence Schools

Yaniza Gallant’s story begins as a refugee born in Havana, Cuba to parents who immigrated to the United States when she was only five years old. Despite language barriers, her dad worked multiple jobs to provide for their family as they began their new life in Passaic, New Jersey until they moved to Providence, Rhode Island when Yaniza was 11 years old. 

Throughout her public school education, she saw education as an equalizer for her that changed the trajectory of her life. Due to barriers such as language and lack of resources, there was little interaction between her home life and her school life. Even with extremely supportive parents, Yaniza was told that college was out of her reach. It was because of her teacher, Mr. Roberts who became her first adult advocate that her dreams of being the first in her family to go to college was achieved and she attended Rhode Island College.

Beginning as a bilingual teacher in the Providence School Department and later becoming a Principal at Orlo Elementary in East Providence, Yaniza became what she always wanted to see during her education for her students. She uses her personal story to show students and families what is possible. Her career has come full circle, in the last two years Yaniza has been the Multilingual Learner Director for the East Providence School Districts. As Director, she oversees all students and staff of second language learners. 

As a first generation Cuban American, Yaniza experienced first hand the struggle of a refugee from a young age. It is the drive to succeed and achieve that she holds center to her identity. She believes Latinos are rich in that drive and passion in the pursuit of a better tomorrow for generations to come and honoring the core values and beliefs our nation was built on. 

Share This!

Lissette Castrillon

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Bilingual Speech and language pathologist

As a first generation Colombian-American born to Immigrant parents, Lissette connected with her roots through language. Being bilingual instilled in her the honor of speaking her native Spanish Language. In high school, she became fascinated by language and cultures that she set out to explore a career that married her passion with the experience of being bilingual, she found her path as a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist.

After an amazing opportunity to study her undergrad in Orlando, Florida and her graduate degree in Portland, Oregon she felt compelled to come back to her home state of Rhode Island to give back to her Latinx community to advocate on behalf of this community and others who see a high need for bilingual professionals across disciplines. In her work she works closely to debunk the myth that speaking both languages will confuse a child and in fact show that learning both simultaneously, enhances the emerging bilingual brain.

Witnessing the hard work and drive first hand from her parents, Lissette is not only successful in her career but also successful in breaking barriers. She newly purchased a home where she resides with her fiancé and puppy Cosmo. She truly believes that Latinos enrich our nation with their desire to work hard and achieve success no matter the sacrifice truly valuing the American Dream.

Share This!

Brenda Almonte

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Director of Public Property for the City of Providence

As a first generation Dominican American, Brenda grew up the youngest of three girls to a single mom from the Dominican Republic. She grew up with the support and love of her community, especially her grandfather who took on the role of a father figure early in her life. In 2018, Brenda’s grandfather passed away at the age of 98. His love and advice is dearly missed.

 

Education has played a large role in Brenda’s life. She was the second person in her family to graduate from college and one of the only ones to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Roger Williams University. Brenda is currently enrolled in a MBA program at the University of RI. Brenda’s early professional career in property management allowed her to assist and connect with residents in need of affordable and accessible housing. Her experience and language abilities allowed her to better connect with Spanish speaking Latino residents, while ensuring that her team also understood the needs of this community as well.

 

Today, Brenda is the Director of Public Property for the City of Providence, where she ensures that neighborhoods with higher percentages of Latinos receive equal consideration when it comes to maintenance and rehabs of city owned/managed buildings such as recreational centers or schools. “It feels amazing to drive around my city and know I can provide excellent asset management. I am the first bi-lingual and woman to hold this position. I couldn’t think of a greater honor.”

Share This!

Zuleyma Gomez

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Chief of Staff for the City of Central Falls

Growing up in Central Falls, Rhode Island as a Mexican American, Zuleyma was able to witness a community that holds the utmost pride in their identity and constantly fights for the opportunity to become so much more. Having this experience throughout her childhood pushed the desire to have a hand in creating those opportunities by pursuing a degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College.

Zuleyma was not always heavily engaged in politics as a young adult. It was not until her 2014 involvement in the Latina Leadership Institute that opened her perspective and understanding of civic duty that is now ingrained in her. She registered to vote later that year to use her voice to help others understand the large result and changes that can come about in their own backyards.

Today, Zuleyma Gomez is the Chief of Staff for the City of Central Falls. She recognizes her duty to ensure all departments of the city are responsive to the community and that everyone has their voices heard when it comes to their community. She believes that the Latino community is gaining the strength and confidence to use vastly varied experiences to create new and truly authentic angles of civic engagement. 

Share This!

Catalina Perez

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Associate Director of Youth Leadership

Born and raised in Pawtucket, RI first generation to Colombian parents, Catalina used her upbringing and experiences throughout her own public education to follow a career in the education field.

As a young person, Catalina realized first hand the lack of space and ability to use her voice to speak on needs and concerns in regard to the education she was receiving. As a high school student she was made aware of the quality of her education and lack thereof as well as not having the support of those in power to make needed changes. Regardless, she persevered to receive her Bachelor’s Degree from Rhode Island College to be the change she wanted to see for students of color in public schools in urban communities. 

Today, Catalina is the Associate Director of Youth Leadership, supporting youth organizers all throughout New England pushing for more equitable practices and policies in education. She firmly believes our young people deserve to be at the table in an authentic way and help in the creation of schools to be an equitable place for all students of color.

Share This!

Janette Perez

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Community Advocate & Innovator

As a woman of color, Janette Perez took notice early on that when seeking resources in her community, those who provided the services didn’t resemble her or the community. Once becoming a parent, she found a passion to call out these inequalities and use her voice to bring about change to those roles. 

Janette used this drive to obtain a Masters Degree in Social Work focusing in Youth and Adolescent Trauma. She has served in countless roles such as Community Design Team member, Alumni from the Parent Leadership Training Initiative, she is also a member of the Providence Schools PTO and PAC as well as Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE.) 

She currently serves as a Clinician supporting students in schools. All this work has driven her to hope to one day begin a consulting business to support Non-profits and other outreach organizations by providing support in Trauma, Self-care and the balance of school and home while living in poverty. 

Share This!

Katya Rodriguez

The latino policy institute

#latinosinri

Director of Impact & Evaluation

Born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, and growing up in Calexico, California, Katya came from a household where education was not a priority, instead her family focused on things that would apply to “real life.” That, combined with attending an underperforming school, led her to understand first-hand the results of receiving a low-quality public education, and how it inherently puts students at a disadvantage in college and beyond.

Katya is the Director of Impact and Evaluation at the Equity Institute. In her work, she combines her experience and passion to ensure educators provide the high-quality and equitable education students deserve. While there is a lot of work to be done to create an equitable system, Katya wants to ensure that people who have experienced these challenges first hand – like herself- are those at the decision-making table. 

Being Latina has influenced Katya’s drive and wanting to do more for her community. She thinks about her future children and their experience in this country, Katya often thinks, “ what can I  do to make sure they have a better life than I did? To ensure that people don’t tell them to ‘go back to their rancho’ or where they came from. To ensure they don’t feel “less” than others simply because they are Latinx and to receive the opportunities they deserve.”

Share This!