Meet the Staff

Krista Cortes (she/they/Dr.)
Director
Tel: 215.573.2394 | cortesk@upenn.edu | Schedule a meeting

 

Krista L. Cortes, Ph.D. (she/they) is a first-generation AfroPuerto Rican mother/scholar/activist who was born and raised in the diaspora. Her academic and professional career is defined by transformative research and practices that uplift people historically oppressed and marginalized in university settings. Through her work at La Casa, Krista seeks to create expansive understandings of Latinidad and Latinx identity by taking up the question – what do black-affirming educational spaces look like for AfroLatinx students?

 

Krista has experience in community organizing through her work with UAW 2865, the union for student workers in the University of California system. During her tenure as unit chair, UAW 2865 won contract protections for undocumented student workers, saw the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms across campus, and called for the de-militarization of the UCs. There is a continued need to agitate and organize at the intersections of workers’ rights and racial justice. Krista hopes to stoke the activist spirit among Penn students.

 

Krista earned her Ph.D. in Education from the University of California Berkeley. She holds two graduate degrees from Penn (Master of Science in Language and Literacy; Master of Science in Teacher Education). She earned a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

 

Krista enjoys exploring the natural world and learning alongside her two children.

 

Kareli Lizarraga (she/her/hers)
Associate Director
Tel: 215.573.2394 | kareli@upenn.edu | Schedule a meeting

 

Kareli Lizarraga is an educator committed to expanding access for historically underserved communities. As Associate Director of the Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina, Kareli has focused on supporting the holistic development of the students she serves in culturally nourishing ways. Her experience as a first generation, low-income and undocumented student navigating the Ivy League guide her commitment to equity and social justice. 

 

In 2013, she was part of the first cohort of teachers with DACA status in the country and she taught 7th grade reading in Denver, Colorado. There, she created a classroom where Black and Latinx students could feel safe and culturally affirmed.

 

Kareli holds a Master of Science in Education and a BA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Meet the Work Study Staff

Carlos Montes (he/they/theirs)
Program Support
Tel: 215.746.6044 | cmontes@sas.upenn.edu

Carlos is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Cultural Anthropology and minoring in Latin American and Latino Studies and Political Science. He was born and raised in western Puerto Rico and hopes to conduct research there in the future. At Penn, they are on the board of Asociación Boricua and MEChA, and are a World House Student Fellow at Perry World House. He loves to read, dance, and cook Puerto Rican food.

Ashley Blanco Liz (she/her/hers)
Program Support
Tel: 215.746.6044 | ashleybl@sas.upenn.edu

Ashley is a sophomore in the College majoring in Communications with a minor in consumer psychology. She is also a proud Dominicana! She loves reality TV, fashion, and the art of film so if you love those things too please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Hector Torres (he/him/his)
Program Support
Tel: 215.746.6044 | htorres@sas.upenn.edu

Hector is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in Sociology and minoring in Latin American and Latinx Studies (LALS). He was born and raised in the South side of Chicago. At Penn, he is involved in Sociology’s research department and is an active member of Onda Latina, Penn’s Premier Latin Dance Troupe. He is passionate about dance, music, and workforce development for immigrants and returning citizens.

Adriana Gonzalez (she/her/hers)
Program Support
Tel: 215.746.6044 | adri17@sas.upenn.edu

Adriana is a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences. She is planning on majoring in Political Science and Latin American and Latino Studies. She has become involved in MECHA and La Casa Latina and has found community and family among the students and Johnny, Maritza, and Kareli. She is looking forward to exploring more opportunities through Penn and more specifically La Casa. 

 

 

Lesly Villanueva (she/her/hers)
Program Support
Tel: 215.746.6044 | leslyv@wharton.upenn.edu

Lesly is a junior in the Wharton school studying Marketing and Business Analytics and certifying in Portuguese. She is originally Weslaco, TX. In her free time, she enjoys video editing and baking empanadas. She loves spending time at La Casa because it is her home away from home.