Alexandra Sossa has more than 32 years of experience performing community outreach and education for very low-income Latinx immigrants. She has a long history of public service dating back to her work with coffee plantation workers in Colombia, where she also worked for nearly a decade with the Attorney General’s Office. She has educated low-income workers on their rights in the United States, Spain, and Colombia. While in Spain, Alexandra helped citizens of Mexico navigate through the Spanish legal system via the Mexican Embassy.
Ms. Sossa graduated from the University of Medellin School of Law, Colombia and is certificated as a bilingual Mediator at the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago, Illinois. She is alumni of the Center for Leadership Innovation and holds a Non-Profit Management certification from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In March of 2019, she was awarded the Foundation Award from the Illinois Human Rights Commission -IHRC-, to honor her commitment in promoting and cultivating women’s rights, freedom, and achievement in Illinois. In 2020 Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health publicly recognized her as Illinois COVID-19 Ambassadors for her efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by promoting and sharing critical information and resources thereby keeping communications across Illinois safe during these challenging times. In early September 2021, FLAP awarded Ms. Sossa its highest honor, the Beckman Farmworker Advocated of the year, for her more than two decades of leadership at FLAP.
What makes Alexandra remarkable and, perhaps, unique in the non-profit world, is that she works on a personal basis with all those involved with FLAP. She first came to the organization in summer 2001 and since then, Alexandra has played an instrumental role in the success of the non-profit’s continued growth. Throughout her years of service with this organization, she has educated low-income immigrants about their rights in the United States, developed working relationships with more than 250 organizations, including law firms and foundations, in the USA, and has supported attorneys providing legal assistance to a countless number of very low-income immigrants, migrant and seasonal workers in the Illinois area. She has also written for several newspapers in Illinois, Spain, and Colombia, been interviewed by the media countless times and has been invited to speak at events by rotary clubs and other groups about issues that affect very low-income immigrant Latinx workers in the USA.
Her passion for addressing the needs of these workers, fighting human labor trafficking, wage theft and helping families stay together in the event of deportation by facilitating the process of getting dual citizenship for their children is immediately apparent when she speaks. She is a strident advocate for the very low-income Latinx population.
Under Alexandra’s leadership, FLAP has made a remarkable impact on the Illinois low-income Latinx community. Since its inception, FLAP has filed 210 cases on behalf of workers cheated of their wages-90 percent representing multiple workers- and has recovered almost 5.0 million dollars in back wages and damages. The organization has secured more than 2.6 million dollars in financial assistance to very low-income Latinx individuals in Illinois benefiting more than 25,000 family members. These distributions paid for families’ bills, groceries, housing, and utilities so workers could stay in their homes and keep their families fed.
Alexandra is dedicated to her craft and is truly committed to improving the working conditions for low-income Latinx workers across Illinois and the USA. She is a native Spanish speaker and is fluent in English.
Arely A. Anaya
Arely A. Anaya is a proud graduate of Northeastern Illinois University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Global Studies. Arely is fluent in both English and Spanish and a first-generation Latina from the Lansing Village in Cook County. She developed her passion for helping her Latinx community after growing up seeing her single mother struggle financially and under unfair working conditions while employed in the food, homecare, landscape, and construction industries. Arely’s mother often shared stories with her and her siblings of being an undocumented farm worker in the 1980’s in Salinas, California and the injustices that workers still face. Those stories and the struggles she saw her mom in, inspired her to advocate and empower immigrant and low-wage workers.
For the past few years, Arely has volunteered with social justice efforts and in political campaigns to help uplift many issues that our communities face in the workplace and throughout our society. Her dedication derives from her hope to see all immigrant workers be treated with dignity and respect. She is determined to help and empower our immigrant community and fight for equality standing firm with that commitment!
As FLAP’s Bilingual Deputy Operations Manager, her responsibilities include managing the day-to-day operations of FLAP, grant goals, labor rights education, and providing resources to low-income Latinx immigrant, migrant, and seasonal workers in Illinois. Arely speaks, reads, and writes English and Spanish.
Jacqueline H. Villanueva
Jackie Villanueva is second generation Latinx and the proud daughter of a landscaper and factory worker, both Latinx immigrants. Jackie witnessed first-hand the injustices her parents, family members and friends suffered at the hands of their employers. She is a forceful advocate for working people. and has been helping low-income workers recover their owed minimum wages, overtime, and other compensation for over a decade, first as a paralegal then as an associate at a prominent labor and employment law firm in Chicago who is also one of the co-counsels of FLAP. Her background coupled with her work experience further reinforced her desire to go to law school to become a voice for her community and to stand up for all those in need.
Jackie oversees the organization’s advocacy, community legal education and litigation efforts, is fluent in English and Spanish and thoroughly enjoys connecting with clients. She has assisted in presenting bilingual “Know Your Rights” workshops, firmly believes that knowledge is power and is passionate about protecting her community from injustice and strives to be a voice for those who live in fear of voicing their concerns and who are often ignored when they do speak up. She is determined to provide communities with information that will provide them with the knowledge necessary to handle various matters. Jackie attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law as a part time evening student while working full time at a labor and employment law firm. Jackie holds a Doctor of Law (JD) degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, a bachelor’s degree in International Business from St. Xavier University, graduated cum laude from Moraine Valley Community College with an associate degree in Criminal Justice, and magna cum laude from Northwestern College f/k/a Northwestern Business College with an associate degree in Paralegal Studies.
Jackie is a member of the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Association, and the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois. In her spare time, she volunteers with her parish, her son’s Boy Scout Troop, her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop and their soccer academy. She lives in Midlothian, Illinois.
Meet Our Staff
Coordinators & Supervisors
Esther E. Contreras
Esther E. Contreras is a first-generation Latina from Aurora, Illinois who currently lives in Harvard, Illinois. Esther is a graduate of McHenry County College, where she received her Associates in Science. She continues to pursue her education at Aurora University working towards her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She was raised by two hard working immigrant parents who influenced the importance of keeping her origins by speaking Spanish, therefore she is bilingual and fluent in both English and Spanish.
Growing up, she saw the need among the Latinx community and the struggle between her Spanish speaking peers. She is self-motivated and determined to give back to her Latinx community. Esther took part in initiating a program for grade school students where a language would no longer be an obstacle to excel in their education. Additionally, she lived and witnessed the financial struggle her parents underwent with unfair working conditions. To make a difference due to the injustice people worked under she proudly took a position to work for Community Health Partnership of Illinois as a promoter.
Her aspirations are to use her fluency in Spanish and English, experience with bilingual translations, computer skills, and organizational abilities. She wants to help others understand and take advantage of their rights by law. Wherever Esther goes she will passionately and enthusiastically contribute and put to practice here in FLAP and continue advocating for her community as well. As one of FLAP’s Bilingual Outreach and Intake Assistants, her responsibilities include community outreach and education and providing resources to low-income latinx immigrant, migrant, and seasonal workers in Illinois.
Yoselin Escalona is a first generation Latinx that grew up in Lisle, IL and presently lives in Aurora, IL. Yoselin graduated from the First Institute Training and Management where she obtained her certificate for Medical Office Assistant. Her work history ranges from working in the food industry, and customer service with management experience, to assisting the Latinx community on trying to achieve the dream of becoming homeowners.
She developed her passion for helping the low income Latinx community after growing up seeing family and loved ones struggle on a daily basis due to unfair treatment by their employers and witnessed language barriers that prevented them from being informed on their rights as workers. Yoselin was faced with these hardships herself when she was of age to work. After everything she experienced and seen others go through, she felt she needed to help support and help empower the immigrants and low income Latinx community.
As FLAP’s Bilingual Outreach and Community Education Coordinator, her responsibilities include delivering community outreach and education material, doing translations and interpretations and delivering Know your Rights presentations both virtually and in person. Yoselin is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Yudaisy Pascual is a first Latina immigrant’s generation who understands the vulnerability and interpersonal issues that immigrants face in a new country. Her passion for helping people has increased since she started working as a case manager in a legal office in Chicago, where she connected low-wage Latinx with immigration, criminal defense, traffic and family’s attorneys. She is an alumni of Upwardly Global-Chicago and currently volunteers with this non-profit organization assisting immigrant professionals to rebuild their careers in the United States. She also holds a Business Negotiation Certificate from Harvard University.
Yudaisy moved to the United States as the ongoing socioeconomic crisis was deepening in Venezuela, her homeland, forcing her to flee the country due the instability to pursue advances on her professional path. She earned her law degree at Santa Maria University in Caracas, Venezuela and a Master’s Science Degree in Corporate Law from the Metropolitana University in Caracas, before joining the National Oil Company of Venezuela (PDVSA), where she worked for ten years. It was there where she acquired a broader understanding of the oil industry and its social impact in the economic development of Venezuela. She worked closely with the Board of Directors and the company subsidiary offices in Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Colombia, helping to implement guidelines with local lawyers in each country.
As a Bilingual Referrals Coordinator, Yudaisy supports FLAP by doing community outreach and education across Illinois and coordinating referrals. She speaks, reads, and writes English and Spanish.
Sasha Reyes is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She is a first-generation Latina who was raised on the south side of Chicago by two hard working parents. Growing up, Sasha’s primary language was Spanish; she has vivid memories of learning English before entering kindergarten and as such, she is bilingual and fluent in both English and Spanish.
Sasha has been committed to serving her community; as a young adult, she and a couple of classmates co-founded an after-school club at Whitney Young Magnet High School. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a gender in the workplace class Sasha took opened her eyes to farm workers’ working conditions. During college, Sasha was then inspired to partake in a successful national campaign involving Trader Joe’s who was rightfully asked to pay farm workers merely one more penny per bucket of tomatoes that were harvested.
After graduating, Ms. Reyes joined First Defense Legal Aid. She worked as a bilingual Know Your Rights educator delivering workshops in English and Spanish under the supervision of attorneys.
Since Sasha could remember, when asked what profession she wanted to be a part of, She always responded with “I want to help people”. This mission she always carried with her in her heart wherever she went. Sasha is happily committed to continue advocating for her community in all capacities and is delighted that she can continue her Know Your Rights work at FLAP! As a Bilingual Community Outreach and Education Coordinator, she supports FLAP’s mission distributing important information to those that do not know their rights at work.
Michelle Velazquez is the Bilingual Advocacy Coordinator at FLAP. Michelle is a current Little Village resident of Chicago, Illinois and uses they/them pronouns. They are originally from the northwest suburbs of Illinois and moved to Chicago to study International Studies at DePaul University in 2013. Michelle has extensive experience in organizing and advocacy work in the southwest side of Chicago and experience in refugee work in Mexico. After finishing their undergraduate studies, Michelle completed a research fellowship at the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean in Mexico City. During their time in Mexico City, they also supported outreach efforts for asylum seekers at Casa Refugiados.
After returning to the United States in 2018, they worked at the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, in the southwest side of Chicago, as a youth and immigration organizer. Here, Michelle was able to work on campaigns advocating for the DACA program during the first year of the Trump Administration and organized youth from Chicago community schools on immigration issues. Michelle continued youth organizing in Little Village for the Telpochcalli Community Education Project. There, they implemented different youth programs and ran the organization’s yearly summer youth institute through the One Summer Chicago program. They were able to lead organizational efforts in seeking resources for undocumented and DACAmented students in the Little Village community.
Their most recent opportunity has been as a Project Coordinator for the LGBT Human Rights Initiative at the National Immigrant Justice Center. At NIJC, Michelle was able to work on asylum and trafficking cases in the detained and non-detained context. They primarily represented LGBTQ+ immigrants in removal proceedings under attorney supervision. Michelle believes their own personal experience as a queer Latinx coming from a mixed status, immigrant family has led their personal drive to work in immigration advocacy and beyond. They are fluent in English and Spanish and they speak conversational French.
As the Bilingual Advocacy Coordinator, Michelle is responsible for organizing and engaging the community in FLAP’s advocacy work. FLAP’s advocacy work is meant to empower migrant and seasonal workers and support low-income Latinx workers to build economic power in FLAP’s industries.
Associates & Assistants
As the Development and Communications Associate at FLAP, Jesse Stein works closely with the Executive Director to draft, implement and evaluate the organization’s grant and communications plans, assists with educational events to provide opportunities for donor cultivation, coordinates FLAP’s annual appeals letter, and performs extensive research on individual, foundation, and corporate donors to determine potential funding for the organization.
Jesse is originally from Pittsburgh, where his parents worked as educators in the public school system, and it was through their experience that he learned the value of being an advocate, and an ally. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 2020, where he worked as a writing tutor, helping students apply for grants and fellowships. After graduation, Jesse received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, and worked as a landscaper and as a woodworker making custom furniture.
Now living in Bridgeport in Cook County, Jesse is determined to use the skills gained from his education and his time in the workforce to do whatever he can to aid and ally with exploited communities, and help their voices be heard. As a former landscaper, and as a long-time restaurant worker, he has seen first-hand the exploitation and degradation imposed on the low-income Latinx community, and he believes that it is imperative for anyone in a position of privilege to be as radical an ally as they can be. Jesse speaks, reads, and writes English.
Community Navigators Contractors
Maria del Carmen Oliveros
Fidelia Salazar was born in Mexico, where she finished high school with the desire to improve herself and seek better opportunities. Fidelia immigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago. She worked in restaurants and factories while studying at Triton College in Melrose Park, finishing ESL as a second language, and later graduating as an office assistant.
As a Latinx immigrant she always knew the challenges and needs that her community faces to get ahead, for this reason she looked for a way to contribute and help immigrant families by dedicating herself to doing volunteer work in schools, libraries and organizations that advocate for immigrants. Her dream is to see that all human beings are treated with fairness,
dignity and respect. As a Community Navigator, Fidelia distribute Community Outreach and Education Material letting the Latinx Community Know what their options are during COVID-19. She is a native Spanish speaker, speaks conversational English and lives in North Lake in Cook County.
Juan Esteban Zamarripa
Juan Esteban Zamarripa was born and grew up in Mexico. Like many of his peers, he was forced to emigrate to the United States due to lack of opportunities, leaving his home country 20 years ago in search of a better life in Chicago. At the age of seven, Juan Esteban had to begin working as a street vendor and butcher to help support his large Latinx family. While he worked, he maintained his own studies, as well – from primary to secondary school, up until he became a professional in public accounting from the Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila.
To support himself and his family, Juan Esteban has worked at restaurants, in the cleaning industry, food, arts, and providing administrative services. In his work with FLAP as Community Navigator, Juan Esteban is proud to be drawing upon his previous job experiences that many in his community have had. He is glad to be spreading the word about FLAP’s mission to improve working conditions for low-income workers and doing community outreach and education. He is a native Spanish speaker, speaks conversational English and lives in West Lawn in Chicago.
Mary Beth Abascal
Mary Beth Abascal, CPA has over thirty years of experience in the field of accounting. She started her career as an auditor at Deloitte and was there for ten years. The next phase of her career was working as a small business controller and financial services manager until she finally found her true passion providing bookkeeping and accounting services to small business clients in both the for profit and not for profit sectors since 2001. Mary Beth has served Nonprofit entities since she was an auditor. She lives in Lake County, IL with her husband, son and three dogs.
Arlo Chapple is a Development and Communications Coordinator Consultant at FLAP. He works with the Board of Directors and Executive Director implementing the organization’s development and communications plan. Arlo has a passion for helping the Latino low-income immigrant community. At FLAP, he helps the organization grow and tell the story of the important work it does to improve working conditions in Illinois.
Arlo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester in 2007 with a concentration in English and Creative Writing. Following graduation, he worked for a small manufacturer, working to make sustainable, eco-friendly skateboards. After that, using his hand-on knowledge of building, and his love for writing, Arlo helped create a variety of educational exhibits for nature centers and history centers in Illinois and Wisconsin.
In 2017, after premiering an exhibit that Arlo helped write, the Grand Army of the Republic Museum in Aurora, Illinois, won a state award for Small Institute of the Year.
Arlo speaks, reads, and writes English and speaks conversational Spanish.
Robert M. Marovich is completing grant applications, drafting grant proposals, letters of inquiry, government grants, and associated written material for the FLAP Executive Director’s review and submission, he also has experience with strategic planning.