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 dissertation was 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 B.A 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 immigration 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 service 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. Send Wilma an email.
Cynthia N. Cortez – Associate Director
With a background in program design, implementation, and evaluation, Cynthia brings expertise in data-informed learning and action. Cynthia understands the process of teaching various stakeholders – board members, leadership, management, front line staff, and youth and families—on how to collect, think about, and use data effectively. Previously, she served at Bresee Foundation leading the organization’s first implementation evaluation assessing program impact using various data systems and tools. Prior to Bresee, Cynthia worked at multiple post-secondary institutions (University of Michigan-Flint, Occidental College, UC Berkeley) promoting college access and success for first generation, underrepresented students and their family members, a passion developed through her own experiences as a participant in college access and success programs.
Cynthia is committed to inclusive, community-led change and understanding it through data. She is excited about joining the SELA Collaborative and strongly aligns with the collaborative’s goal of attaining collective impact. Cynthia holds a MA from UCLA in Social Research Methodology and a BA from UC Berkeley in Peace and Conflict Studies with a focus on Human Rights and Sustainable Economic Development of Latin America. She currently serves as an active member in the American Evaluation Association and is a proud alumnus of UC Berkeley’s Incentive Awards Program, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Project Evident, Education Pioneers, and Destination College Advising Corps. She feels honored and humbled to join the SELA team. Send Cynthia an email
Kerissa Kelly-Slatten – Marketing Manager
Kerissa Kelly-Slatten is the Marketing Manager for the SELA Collaborative. She is responsible for communicating with member organizations and network partners to develop and execute marketing initiatives that help to uplift and engage the Southeast LA Community.
With a degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona and an MBA from California State Long Beach, Kerissa has over 10 years of marketing and communications experience. Her previous work experience included time at Initiative (IPG Media Brands) a digital ad agency in Los Angeles where she executed ad buys and media planning for her clients. In her previous role as Brand Manager at Cardinal Laboratories she was named 2018 Employee of the Year. Kerissa’s training in sustainability allow her to think holistically about the organizations long term strategic plans and its impacts on the SELA Members and community as a whole. Send Kerissa an email.
Selene Sandoval – Operations Coordinator
With a degree in Sociology from the University of California Santa Barbara and an M.A. in Educational Policy from Teachers College Columbia University, Selene has experience in policy, research, and reform efforts in K-14 education. Her work includes studying ways to close opportunity gaps for underserved populations so that all individuals can receive quality education regardless of their background. Her previous projects at the Community College research center involved analyzing ways that community colleges include equity measures in their funding formulas, and a project centered on English Language Learners at community colleges in the East and West Coast. Prior to her graduate studies, she has worked with non-profits on the frontlines for wraparound services such as tutoring, mentorship, and facilitating afterschool programs for youth. Her first-hand experiences working with youth in educational social programs, and her own experience navigating the higher education pipeline as a first-generation student has fueled her dedication towards systemic change through policy. She is honored and excited to join the SELA Collaborative team. Send Selene an email.
Devina Ortega – UCLA Luskin Fellow
Devina Ortega is a UCLA Undergraduate senior majoring in Public Affairs and has joined SELA Collaborative as a UCLA Luskin Fellow for her Capstone project. With a background in data collection and management, she will utilize her Public Affairs major to apply concepts and theories to our organization, aiming to write a program and/or policy recommendation by the end of the year. As a first-generation Latina woman scholar, she is looking to help communities in whatever way possible to increase their quality of life. Her passion is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs, leading towards a master’s in systems change or leadership to further a social justice mindset. Her ambitions include leading a faith-based social justice team to implement solutions in our communities and help families who lack the resources to defend themselves. As a community advocate, she became certified through the Safe Sitter program to make sure that families had a trustworthy caretaker and the FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team program learning emergency skills to apply towards crises. Her community passion drove her to become the Red Cross Blood Drive President at school, in which she came up with recruitment strategies for donors and setting a record for the highest blood donations ever collected at her high school.
Brooke Mero – AmeriCorps Cal State LA Fellow
Brooke Mero is an aspiring social worker with a passion for advocacy. She is currently finishing her undergraduate degree at Cal State Los Angeles and hopes to attend a nearby university to get her MSW. When she’s not in class or serving on her university’s student government she enjoys reading, making ceramics, and taking her dog Boba to the park.
Justin Pivaral – AmeriCorps Cal State LA Fellow
Justin Pivaral is currently obtaining his Masters in Economics at Cal State LA and is passionate about economic development and data analysis. With his experience in banking and customer service Justin hopes to become an economist for a local government where he can develop public policy solutions to help low income communities and small businesses.
Maribel Duarte – AmeriCorps Cal State LA Fellow
Maribel Duarte is currently majoring in Business Administration and has a passion for marketing and analytics. She currently is the Director of Events with the Marketing Club and is always open to new challenges.