Staff

Local Promoters

Board of Directors

José Eduardo Aguilar Reynoso
Executive Assistant and Accountant

José is a graduate of the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez in Oaxaca with a degree in accounting. He has collaborated with various organizations in the private sector, gaining experience as an administrative accountant for a little over 5 years. In 2012 he began working with Helps International, A.C., an organization dedicated to researching clean energy technology and the reduction of diseases caused by using wood as fuel in rural kitchens. He began working with Puente in 2016.

Hope Bigda-Peyton
Director of Development and Sustainability

Hope has served at Puente since 2012. She studied International Development at McGill University and has worked on environment and community health related projects in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, Uganda, and Panama, where she researched and designed a community water quality monitoring project. Hope has focused on the sustainable, local management of natural resources through her studies and field work. She has pursued this interest throughout her career while building up experience in grant writing, professional networking, project management and evaluation. She brings enthusiasm and a breadth of knowledge about non-profit, government, and academic institutions to her work at Puente.

Rebecca Chávez Weiss
Director of Healthy Families

Rebecca is originally from Washington DC, and is of Mexican-American heritage. The focus of her academic studies was on public health, and she has collaborated with small producers in Oaxaca, the western highlands in Guatemala, and the rural south of the U.S. to strengthen rural infrastructure through promoting the commercialization and consumption of healthy foods. Rebecca began her professional career in Oaxaca in the field of rural finances with Servicios Financieros Alternativos, S.A. de C.V., S.F.P. She graduated with a masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina in 2014 and a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Wesleyan University in 2008. She got to know Puente for the first time through volunteer work in 2002 and it is a great pleasure for her to be able to once again contribute to their mission.

Paul David Cortes Velasco
Regional Coordinator, Mixteca

Paul is from the municipality of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan in the Valles Centrales region of Oaxaca State. He graduated from ITVO in 2005 with a degree in agronomy. Later he specialized in silviculture, forest management, and agroecology, and more recently got a diploma in permaculture in 2014. He has collaborated for 10 years with several non-governmental organizations, implementing strategies of community development, natural resource management with a participative focus, and sustainability in rural indigenous communities in the state of Oaxaca. During his time working in rural communities he has learned a lot about agroforestry, food sovereignty, extending and developing abilities, strategic planning, healthy food systems production, integral community management, and space design using the principles of permaculture. He joined the Puente team in 2016, motivated primarily by his interest in rural development, food sovereignty, and the power of transformation through conscientious learning.

Stan Cruz
Community Outreach Coordinator

Stan is originally from the indigenous community of San Juan Guichicovi, Oaxaca, and speaks Ayuuk, Mixe. He has collaborated with several human rights organizations in the state of Oaxaca. He is an active contributor to publications, radio, and cultural supplements at the state and national level, including Códices Oaxaca, Arca Tv, El Barrio Antiguo and Agencia Bengala. He is currently studying a degree in Communication Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Stan is passionate about investigative journalism, often going to search for stories in the State of Oaxaca, as well as in Mexico City, and enjoys letting time pass by without pursuing it.

Sandra Gisela García Cruz
Operations and Accounting Coordinator

Sandra is originally from Oaxaca, where she studied Business Administration at The Institute of Technology. For 9 years Sandra worked at the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, as information analyst, organizational manager, manager of personal loans and regional training coordinator. Later Sandra joined the non-profit sector as Assistant to the Director of Synergy for Integral Sustainable Development and was there for almost 4 years. She coordinated the program for young professionals and was also responsible for the logistics and administration of all activities and events. Sandra joined Puente in April 2009.

Jésica García Robles
Technical Facilitator of Amaranth Production, Mixteca

Jessica is from the community of Santo Domingo Ixcatlan is 30 years old. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Regional Development and Management of Natural Resources from the Institute of Technology of Teposcolula. She has worked on a strategic project for food security and skills development training with communities in the Mixteca for organic vegetable production. She is very interested in comprehensive community development and the sustainable use of natural resources. Currently, she is committed to her work at Puente promoting food sovereignty through the production, consumption and transformation of amaranth. Her motto: eating healthy unites us.

Claudia Luz Jiménez Cruz
Youth Project and Volunteer Coordinator

Claudia was born in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. She graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas with a B.A. in sociology. During her first years of experience working she collaborated in several investigations with academic institutions and NGOs related to the prevention of AIDS in rural youth in the border communities of Chiapas. Recently she has collaborated in the prevention of violence in elementary schools in her hometown, making use of lucid methodologies for a period of three years. She has specialized academically through several courses and diplomas on the topics of youth (CRIM-UNAM 2013), gender (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), and the deconstruction of scientific knowledge. This last specialty comes of participating in several seminars at the Universidad de la Tierra in Chiapas. Her interest is to continue collaborating in projects that look to strengthen the abilities of rural youth in southern Mexico, while respecting their culture. Claudia believes youth to be a key group for improving the social, political, and economic conditions in Mexico. She feels motivated by Puente’s work as a window to rethink her role and to work with rural Oaxaca youth on the themes of agriculture and food sovereignty.

Gerardo Iliel López Hernández
Technical Facilitator of Amaranth Production, Central Valleys

Gerardo is from the community of Santo Tomas Mazaltepec, Etla, Oaxaca. Gerardo graduated from the ITVO with a degree in biology, his work experience is in the area of community development and research. He was a local promoter with Puente for three years. He later worked three years in the INIFAP to support programs in conservation of genetic resources, specifically native seeds like corn, beans, amaranth, cotton, and pumpkin, and contributed to the Native Seeds Bank of Oaxaca. His passions are research and hobbies include caring for orchids and ornamental fish.

Hipólito Molina Calderón
Technical Facilitator of Organizational Processes, Mixteca

Hipólito is from the Sierra Norte of Puebla. He studied a degree in rural development planning at the Center for Rural Development Studies (CESDER) in Zautla, Puebla. He was part of the team of Community Development for the CESDER for two years and then worked as an election supervisor in the IFE in 2009. He formed part of a community communications collective called Voices of the Earth as a community correspondent. He is motivated by community work and supporting peasant and indigenous peoples in rural areas and also speaks the Nahuatl language.

Areli Sadai Nolasco Legaspi
Technical Facilitator of Nutrition, Valles Centrales

Areli is originally from the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca, Areli specializes in food sovereignty and studied a Bachelors of Nutrition at the Regional University of Southeast in Oaxaca. She offered her services at the General Hospital of Zone No. 1 "Demetrio Mayoral Pardo" and began her professional development in 2012 as a volunteer with Puente a la Salud Comunitaria. From 2013 to 2014 she collaborated at the University of the Earth in Oaxaca holding workshops on urban agriculture, food sovereignty and nutrition in neighborhoods of the Valley of Oaxaca. In 2014 she completed the Diploma Course in Community Research at the University of the Earth. She is characterized by her community work in favor of autonomy and the food sovereignty of people and communities.

Pete Noll
Executive Director

Pete has served at Puente since 2009. Most recently served two years as the Deputy Director, for the Democracy without Borders Foundation, located in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He graduated from the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in 2006. His senior thesis project focused on technology and development related to ‘continuity of healthcare’ in rural Haiti. From 2002 - 2004, he acted as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization (CORAL, A.C.) in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was a micro-enterprise development coordinator for the Peace Corps in Guatemala from 1998 – 2000 and a Logistics Manager & Social Outreach Promoter with the Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF) in El Salvador following the 2001 earthquakes. He is a member of the Rotary Club, Oaxaca, District 4200. Pete was re-elected in 2013 as President of the Amaranth Institute. He currently serves on the Un Mundo board based in Honduras.

Elia Pedro Borja
Technical Facilitator of Organizational Processes, Valles Centrales

was born in Candelaria Loxicha, and was a community instructor for the Consejo Nacional de Fomento Educativo (CONAFE). She did her bachelor’s in the Science of Education at the Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez in Oaxaca. Between 2004 and 2005 she was in charge of summer courses at the Casa de la Cultura in Oaxaca. She then became an educative assistant at the municipal high school in Oaxaca City. During the next 10 years, she worked for Geoconservatcion A.C. in which she was in charge of the areas of social assistance, environmental education, and coordination of the organization, and was also the coordinator of interns doing their bachelor’s in business management as well as volunteers from different universities in the U.S. She was also in charge of different administrative projects such as ecotourism, packaging of local products, and certification of areas voluntarily destined for conservation. She has worked in the indigenous communities of the Chinantla Alta and the Mixteca Poblana, doing workshops on community development and environmental services, and has collaborated with the Comité de Recursos Naturales de la Chinantla Alta A.C. (CORENCHI), coordinating seminars from community to community among the Chinanteca and others in different states such as Guerrero, the Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, the State of Mexico, and Oaxaca. Currently she is on the board of directors at Geoconservacion, A.C. She began working with Puente because she wants to gain more experience working in rural and indigenous communities, and believes that non-profit organizations are the means through which aid can be given without political, economic, or religious interests.

Zaira De La Rosa Jimenéz
Regional Coordinator, Central Valleys

Zaira is from Mexico City but has worked for five years in rural communities. She began her community work with the organization Enlaces Rural, where she volunteered with agriculture projects in Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, Mexico. After that experience, Zaira began working with Un Kilo de Ayuda to prevent and combat malnutrition among children and pregnant women. Prior to working with rural populations, Zaira was a teacher and trainer with the education board, el Consejo Nacional de Fomento Educativo. She began working with Puente in March 2008.

Regulo Irais Sánchez Pacheco
Eco-Amaranth Director

Irais is a graduate of the Instituto Tecnológico Agropecuario in Oaxaca, with a degree in Forest Engineering specializing in natural resource management. Since 2007 he has collaborated with an organization called Sistema Comunitario para el manejo y resguardo de la Biodiversidad Unión de Comunidades (SICOBI U DE C). For 12 years, SICOBI has focused their efforts on the promotion and implementation of community land management, specifically working on watershed management with influence in 9 agricultural communities in the Sierra Sur mountain range and on the Oaxacan coast, launching strategies for the further development of 4 programs: sustainable coffee production, community agroforestry, community forestry, and management and protection of biodiversity; management strategies with influence on watershed: Copalita, Zimatan, and Huatulco. Said management strategies are sustained by the articulation of alliances between communities and other key actors, among which the Grupo Autónomo para la Investigación Ambiental (GAIA, A.C.), the Unión de Comunidades de la Región del Istmo (UCIRI), and the Unión de Comunidades Zapoteco-Chinantecas (UZACHI) stand out. These alliances have as their goal the strengthening of management capacities and the sustainable use of natural resources in the 9 partner communities. These productive systems strengthen local and regional economies in order to give communities the abilities to manage their own watersheds and agriculture systems, by promoting payment for ecosystem services in their territories.

Mauricio del Villar Zamacona
Director of Social Economy

Mauricio is a native of Tulancingo. He graduated as an industrial engineer from the Universidad Iberoamericana and studied philosophy at the University of Havana, Cuba. He was a member of the seminar on the generation of knowledge and social appropriation at the Institute for Philosophical Research of the UNAM and is a member of the Asociacion Civil Propuesta Civica. Mauricio lived in the Sierra Tarahumara for 7 years learning and sharing life with 8 Raramuri communities. He has worked in a number of projects including, Water Systems, Family Gardens, Planting of Native Corn, Artesanias and Local Crafts, and Trade Systems that respect the local culture. He has also collaborated with Native Seeds Search, Christensen Fund and el Centro de Desarrollo Alternativo Indígena AC. His aim is to work for a common welfare that allows the people of Mexico and the rest of the world to live dignified lives.

Elinai Bernabé Santiago
Local Promoter, Mixteca

is from the community called Plan de Guadalupe, in the Mixteca Alta in Oaxaca. She did her bachelor’s in Community Development at the Tecnológico Superior in San Miguel el Grande. After that she did a practicum at the Coordination Center for the Development of Indigenous Pueblos, where she worked on diagnostics. Her thesis was written commercialization strategies within a microenterprise group of women. Additionally, she’s also taken a course on obtaining and interpreting dietary patterns and nutritional quality, and another course on democracy and equality through the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. She enjoys working in rural communities and has the initiative to carry out projects to contribute to good development in the region. When she’s not working, she likes to read, swim, and hang out with friends.

Isabel Díaz Díaz
Local Promoter, Central Valleys

is originally from Santo Domingo Barrio Alto, Etla, Oaxaca. Isabel is a lawyer with law degree from the Autonomous University of Benito Juarez of Oaxaca. She was part of the Joint Commission on Agriculture, and has litigated in different offices. Her three children say she picked the wrong career, as she prefers farming and gardening to law, which forms part of her motivation to work with Puente. She has a garden and grows amaranth and is interested in issues of healthy eating and supporting communities to improve their health.

Lizbeth Espinoza Díaz
Local Amaranth Sales Promoter, Central Valleys

is 25 years old and has a 5-year-old daughter. She studied biology at the Technological Institute of the Valley of Oaxaca. Before working with Puente, she worked in a grocery store where she was in charge of the store and inventories. She began working with Puente one year ago and loves her job as a sales promoter, especially because of the being able to improve families health through the nutritional value of amaranth. She also likes building relationships with the many new people she meets at her job. Liz now also creates products with amaranth that are for sale at the store.

Aracely Hernandez Zarate
Local Promoter, Mixteca

is a native and resident of the community of Tierra Blanca, San Cristobal Amoltepec. She is 27-years-old and a mother of 4 children. In 2009 she completed her secondary education at the State Institute of Adult Education, in Cabeza del Rio, Amoltepec. In 2000 she promoted the Open Classroom Program to administer the entry and exit of goods for the preparation of food for children in primary education in San Cristobal Amoltepec. In 2004 she was Chair of the Health Committee verifying the establishment and use of stoves, latrines and garbage classification, among other activities. From 2005 to 2009 she served as a rural assistant, the principal activity being rural first aid amongst the inhabitants of the community of Tierra Blanca. In 2010 she joined the group of women to receive training on the subjects of nutrition and incorporation of amaranth in the diet of children underweight hosted by Puente and in May 2011, she joined the team of community promoters.

Julieta Pinelo Ramirez
Local Promoter, Central Valleys

Irma Rosales
Local Promoter, Central Valleys

is originally from community in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. She lives with her husband and three daughters in the town of Santo Tomas Mazaltepec. Her three daughters Jesy, Hazly, and Brisa have learned to love amaranth. Irma began working with Puente in 2011 and works to promote the comsumption of amaranth at the local level. She enjoys working with other community members and learning more about the positive qualities of amaranth

Sergio Beltrán Arruti
Board Member

Sergio Beltrán Arruti is socio and founder of Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca and of Herramientas para el Buen Vivir. Since 1997 he has lived in Oaxaca and participated in multiple experiences of intercultural group facilitations. He has been involved in the design of various workshops of this methodology in Mexico and in the U.S. Currently he supports and does diffusion work for various projects on popular communication and education alternatives around the world, as well as practices the Art of Participative Leadership as an external consulter in companies, institutions, and non-profit organizations. He is one of a team of tutors for the Youth Initiative Program (YIP) which takes place in the Rudolf Steiner Seminar in Järna, Sweden. He was an intern for the Search & Research Program at UNESCO in 2004-2005, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Latin-American Studies from UNAM in Mexico City.

Cassie Chandler
Board member

Cassie provides strategic and technical support to advance Freedom from Hunger's integrated health and financial services initiative. This initiative supports programs in Latin America, Africa and Asia by combining health innovations with financial services to improve knowledge, access to health services and health financing. Prior to joining Freedom from Hunger, Cassie worked with the Latino Health Access Network in New Orleans and with organizations in Mexico and Kenya on microfinance and HIV/AIDS projects. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras focusing on maternal and child health. Cassie holds an MPH from Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington.

Joe Choperena
Board member

Joe implements on-farm projects focused on nutrient management, energy, fertilizer and water efficiency, and renewable energy for Sustainable Conservation, an environmental non-profit organization based in California. Born and raised on a farm in the fertile San Joaquin Valley of California, he has worked in the production, processing and marketing of various agricultural commodities and has also garnered experience in the private, public and non-governmental sectors. Prior to 2006, when he began working for Sustainable Conservation, Joe spent 5 years with USDA Rural Development managing microfinance and economic development programs for businesses in rural California. He also has international development experience working on projects in Parana, Brazil, Guanajuato, Mexico and Chisinau, Moldova. Joe graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Agribusiness and a Spanish Minor from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Master's of Science degree in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis.

Jamie Dean
Board member

Jamie is Program Manager for The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, and directs the Foundation's program in climate and energy. Previously, Jamie led the Agriculture subprogram at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and worked for the U.S. Fair Trade Certification organization, Fairtrade USA. She has an MBA from the Haas School of Business and an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from U.C.L.A.

Aerin Dunford
Board member

Aerin Dunford is a writer, upcycling artist, process designer and facilitator, and yoga instructor. She is an independent consultant using Art of Hosting and other participative approaches as a basis for her work with organizations. Aerin is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Berkana Institute, an initiative has worked globally with local for more than 20 years in collaboration with communities and individuals on many continents. For three years, Aerin was a principle steward of the Berkana Exchange, a trans-local community of learning centers in nine countries. She has worked extensively with Berkana’s values, principles and theory of change over the past seven years in several communities, and now in her local work in Oaxaca. Aerin has a master’s degree in Organizational Management with a focus on leadership and change. Since moving to Mexico in 2009 she has been working with organizations, networks and individuals to facilitate dialogue and create the conditions for authentic collaboration and participative leadership.

Gabriel Garcia
Board member

Gabriel is Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Medical School Admissions at Stanford University School of Medicine. He was born in Havana, Cuba and grew up in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He received his A.B from Cornell University in 1973 and his M.D. from New York University in 1977. He is an internist and gastroenterologist who specializes in the care of patients with viral hepatitis and other liver diseases, and has research interests in the natural history and management of patients with liver diseases. In 2004 he was invited to provide testimony to the Institute of Medicine Committee on Institutional and Policy Level Strategies on Increasing the Diversity of the U.S. Health Care Workforce, and in 2005 was a key informant to the Sullivan Alliance. He also directs a year-long undergraduate patient advocacy service-learning course at Stanford University and has developed a international service learning program entitled Community Health in Oaxaca to address immigrant health issues. He has supervised an alternative spring break that examines the lives of California farm workers. In September of 2006, he was appointed Peter E. Haas Director of the Haas Center for Public Center at Stanford University.

José Carlos León Vargas
Board member

José Carlos is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico. He holds a degree in International Relations from El Colegio de Mexico and a Master's degree in Cooperation and Development from the University of Pavia, Italy. He has completed graduate courses in France, Germany, and England on public policy, human rights, and strategic planning for civil society organizations. Since 2002 he has worked with various non-governmental organizations to develop projects that promote human rights and fight poverty in India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, England, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru. He was Coordinator of International Programs at Coffee Kids, which focuses on sustainable development projects in Latin America. He worked with the Swiss organization Initiatives of Change International, which aims to strategically link national and international agencies in over 50 countries. He is the founder and director of International Solidarity Kanda (SiKanda), a non-profit organization which has won national and international awards for its work with highly marginalized families living in municipal landfills in Oaxaca. José Carlos speaks five languages and has lived and worked in 34 countries in America, Asia and Europe.

Katherine Lorenz
Board Treasurer/Secretary

Katherine co-founded Puente in 2003, serving as Co-Director and later Executive Director until 2008. Katherine Lorenz is the president of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, a grantmaking foundation focusing on environmental sustainability in Texas. In late 2012, Forbes Magazine named Katherine "Ones to Watch" as an up-and-coming face in philanthropy, a select group who are using their money for good in distinctive and innovative ways. Katherine serves on the board of directors of the Environmental Defense Fund, the Institute for Philanthropy, Puente a la Salud Comunitaria, the Endowment for Regional Sustainability Science, the Association of Small Foundations, and the Amaranth Institute. Katherine is a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle of the Synergos Institute, and sits on the Council on Foundations Committee on Family Philanthropy. She also serves on the National Academies' Roundtable of Science and Technology for Sustainability. Katherine formerly worked as Deputy Director for the Institute for Philanthropy, whose mission is to increase effective philanthropy in the United Kingdom and internationally. Before founding Puente, she spent two summers living in rural villages in Latin America with the volunteer program Amigos de las Américas and later served on their program committee and as a trustee of the Foundation for Amigos de las Americas. Katherine holds a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Spanish from Davidson College.

Alexis Lozada Núñez
Board member

Alexis is native of Venezuela. He has held various professional roles in diverse industries (Consumer Goods, Investment Banking, IT Outsourcing, Automotive) in Latin America and the United States of America. Currently, Alexis specializes in consumer goods supply chains, building partnerships with customers, assessing operational performance, identifying continuous improvement opportunities and driving customer-centric solutions across the areas of customer service, demand planning, production planning, distribution, transportation and replenishment. He holds a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, a Master of Science in Finance from Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA), and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology/Anthropology from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Amy Margolies
Board member

Amy conducts research on food security and nutrition at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). She has previously worked for the United Nations, government, and non-governmental organizations in Latin America and West Africa on public security, peacebuilding and social protection programs. She is particularly interested in the role monitoring and evaluation can play in improving impact and encouraging learning. She is a recipient of the Project on Negotiation Summer Fellowship at Harvard Law School, as well as the Mickey Leland Fellowship, a two-year program funded by the U.S. Congress for field and policy work on issues of hunger. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Security and International Conflict Resolution from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Bachelor’s degree from Macalester College. Amy is currently a doctoral student in International Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

Jennifer Rogers-Brown
Board Member

Jennifer is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Long Island University, Post (LIU Post). She received her PhD in Sociology at UC Santa Barbara in 2008. While conducting her dissertation work on corn, technology, and gender in Oaxaca, Jennifer volunteered at Puente. The experience introduced her to Puente’s work in rural communities and furthered her understanding of indigenous Oaxacan communities. After completing her PhD, she was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UC Santa Barbara. Her research today focuses on the relationships between food, technology, gender, and resistance in Latin America and the United States. At LIU Post, she teaches courses on food & society, environmental sociology, globalization, and feminism.

Kate Seely
Board President

Kate supports and encourages the leadership shifts that are needed to achieve community resilience. She creates the conditions in which people and organizations can be in effective service of a cause greater than themselves. As leadership is about harnessing energy so that we can accomplish what we set ourselves to do, her learning in my master's program, Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability, was about the creation of necessary space to fuel co-creation, the desire to engage, impact, and influence so that we are working towards the future that we want to live in, not waiting for a dreaded one to come down the pike. Creating the space that honors courage, taking risks, space that builds the necessary trust for these things to happen and for innovation to emerge. And supporting personal transformation all the while. Her career has spanned the realms of leadership development, philanthropy, and sustainable agriculture and public health, program management, workshop design and facilitation, and coaching. She began her career co-founding and co-directing Puente and has worked with numerous social justice and leadership development organizations since then. Originally from San Francisco, Kate studied at Middlebury College for her BA in Latin American Culture and Politics, and after working for several years returned in the fall of 2013 to study a Master's in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability in Sweden. She has lived for five years in Latin America, and relishes travel, farm life, her homeland of California, and good cooking and food.

Melanie Torres
Board member

Melanie is a Senior Director in Arabella’s New York office, where she leads strategy and evaluation engagements with a variety of foundation clients. While at Arabella, Melanie has worked with a number of funders focused on community development, health, youth services, and education. This work has included helping a place-based funder develop an evaluation plan to assess organizational capacity building efforts; working with a new foundation to devise a strategy to support youth development and mental health programs; and working with a nonprofit hospital system to conduct a community health needs assessment and develop a grant-making plan in response to emerging community needs. Melanie continues to develop her interest and expertise in how philanthropists can have meaningful impact in building nonprofit organizational effectiveness and capacity. Prior to joining Arabella, Melanie worked at Grameen America and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, managing partnership initiatives for US and international programs. Her other professional experience includes working with Newman’s Own Foundation to identify investment opportunities in the social enterprise sector, and with the Maverick Capital Foundation, where she helped create and pilot an evaluation framework to assess grantee performance. Melanie holds a BS in Communication Studies and International Studies from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. While at Yale School of Management, she served as the co-chair for its annual conference on philanthropy, and was a member of the Global Social Enterprise program.

April Watson
Board member

April is the Director of the Practice Transformation Initiative for the California Quality Collaborative. In this role, she provides the strategic leadership, management and overall direction for the program. April is passionate about values-driven work that supports transformational change to improve health, and has experience in hospital and clinic operations, public health, academia, grant-making, community health programming, and global health. Prior to joining CQC, April led a medical innovations grant-making program for Stanford University’s School of Medicine. She spent seven years working for Sequoia Hospital, party of Dignity Health, and led identification, design and implementation of process redesign efforts across the hospital for improved quality and financial sustainability. She also worked for Palo Alto Medical Foundation facilitating complex improvement projects involving clinic operations and physician leaders. While working for Freedom from Hunger, April lived for a year and a half in Oaxaca with her husband and two dogs. She earned her Master’s degree in Public Health and is a Registered Dietitian.