SELA Collaborative Team

Dr. Wilma Franco – Executive Director

Dr. Wilma Franco serves as Director of the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative and holds a doctorate degree in Education – Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne.  Dr. Franco successfully defended a dissertation entitled, “Employer’s Perception of Their Role in Student Learning and Skill Development: A Qualitative Case Study.”  Dr. Franco completed her undergraduate work at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) where she earned her BA in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies with a minor in Public Policy.  During her time at UCLA she worked closely with the NAID Center researching the economic impact of post-1986 immigration reform.

Dr. Franco went on to complete her Master’s Degree in Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC), where she also completed a certificate in Public Management.  Dr. Franco has over ten years of experience in overseeing nonprofits and community based programs and has a solid background in program development, evaluations, partnership development, finance, fundraising and development.  Previously, Dr. Franco spent seven years developing, evaluating, and managing programs at “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles; a program that sponsored students in elementary school years and work with the cohort until they graduate high school, and transition to post-secondary education, by providing whole child services.  In collaboration with USC, Dr. Franco launched a mental health programming component at I Have a Dream that continues to serve students.  Additionally, Dr. Franco’s collaboration with CSULB as an internship placement partner resulted in her being recognized as the organization of the year two consecutive years.  Dr. Franco is also a part-time lecturer in the Human Development Department at California State University – Long Beach (CSULB) and serves as a Board Member for the D.A.D Project.  Dr. Franco is a proud alumnus of Education Pioneers and the Magnolia Community Initiative Fellowship.  Dr. Franco was inspired to work at SELA Collaborative given its core values and commitment to the Southeast LA region by way of creating a collective approach to serving the region through nonprofit capacity building, civic engagement, and data and research.

Karla Fernandez – Associate Director  

Karla serves as Associate Director of the SELA Collaborative. Karla was raised in southeast Los Angeles and is thrilled to uplift its communities with the Collaborative. After completing her BA in Anthropology at the University of Chicago, Karla worked as a literacy teacher at Chicago Public Schools and the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Upon returning to LA, she worked as a counselor for Los Angeles County youth in foster care and completed a Policy Advisor Fellowship with Leadership for Educational Equity. She has experience in nonprofit management, having served as a director for a non-profit serving young people in the Bay Area prior to graduate school. Karla received a Master of Public Policy degree and Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the University of Southern California. Her policy interests span a range of topics including educational and economic equity, environmental sustainability, and housing. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, music, and movies.

Velma Jones – AmeriCorps Cal State LA Fellow  

Velma Jones completed her undergraduate degree in Communications at NYU. She concluded her MBA studies at Cal State LA in December 2021 and has joined SELA Collaborative as an AmeriCorps Fellow. With a background in management, operations, and communications strategy, she will utilize her degrees and past work experiences to cultivate consistent messaging across all platforms for our organization. Velma has confronted inequalities while tackling diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout her life. She believes that working in diverse teams is required to succeed and will serve her community with this approach in mind. Velma plans to extend this perspective to the groups around her, examine why these inequalities exist, and construct strategies to combat them. Another one of her goals is to close the gap on the historical and systemic barriers to capital and opportunities for BIPOC women. Working with the SELA Collaborative provides a fantastic opportunity to hone her skills further while also contributing to the change she wants to see in the world around her.