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 McHenry County, 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.
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 Advocacy Coordinator, she supports FLAP’s mission distributing important information to those that do not know their rights at work.
Associates & Assistants
Jessica Rivas is studying political science at Northeastern Illinois University. Born and raised on the south side of Chicago to immigrant parents, she is proud of her Mexican-American heritage. As a young child, she experienced the legal and social hardships many immigrant families encounter living in the shadows. Motivated by a sense of justice and in-conformity to the status quo, she’s committed to helping undocumented immigrants and their children thrive in their new communities. Jessica joined AmeriCorps (NCCC) in 2013, where she assisted multiple non-profits in the Midwest to build capacity in their programming and services. That same year, she was awarded the President’s Service Award for her outstanding commitment to volunteerism.
Advancing her career in the non-profit sector, she started working at YMCA of the USA (YUSA) supporting the New American Welcome Center (NAWC), which focused on helping newcomer immigrants integrate into their new communities, through direct services, inclusion programs, and community efforts. In 2018, she led a national campaign at YUSA known as Welcoming Week, where she coordinated multicultural bridge-building activities to bring the receiving and immigrant community together. Jessica designed and developed an immigrant youth portfolio, which included the creation of tools and resources in healthcare, advocacy, education, and employment access.
At FLAP, she furthers the quality of life for immigrant families by ensuring they receive equitable access to services and programs, through her work as a Bilingual Intake Specialist; she is fluent in English and Spanish.
Elias Rodriguez is a third-generation Mexican-American, born and raised in Chicago. Though Elias grew up around the Hermosa and West Lawn neighborhoods in the city, his roots go back to Coahuila, Mexico, where his great-grandparents raised a family while migrating back and forth across the border to work on California fruit farms. The family relocated to Chicago in the 1960s, just as the newly-passed Nationalities and Immigration Act was criminalizing much of this kind of migration, to take low-wage jobs in factories, meatpacking plants and auto shops. Elias’ grandparents often share stories of those years working in dangerous conditions for employers who preyed on their vulnerability and uncertain status in their new country. Acutely aware of this history, Elias believes that the most important way to honor the sacrifice of his immigrant grandparents is to aid the exploited immigrant workers of today in the struggle against injustice in any way he can. Being the grandson of Latinxs immigrants and going to school in majority-Latinx districts in the Chicago Public Schools system, Elias experienced firsthand how institutional inequities divided the community based on each family’s immigration status. As a Chicanx born with the privileges of citizenship, he knows it’s his responsibility to be a voice for friends and community members who don’t have that luxury.
Elias holds a degree in English from the University of Illinois Chicago and lives in Avondale. Prior to joining the team at FLAP, he worked in the private sector while volunteering his time to organizations, campaigns and street actions oriented around various causes for social justice, including labor strikes and demands for migrant amnesty. He now uses the skills developed so far in his professional career to make advocacy for the immigrant community his life’s work.
As FLAP’s Development and Communications Associate, Elias aids the Executive Director in developing the organization’s fundraising and communications strategies, coordinates annual appeals letters, helps organize educational events designed to promote donor cultivation, conducts comprehensive research on possible donors to identify potential for funding, and helps draft grant proposals. Elias speaks English and is working on his Spanish.
Community Navigators Independent Contractors
Erika Castillo-Smith was born and raised in Illinois, where she developed a passion for advocacy, and enriching her community. She graduated from Westwood College in 2012 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice, and took her knowledge to the Howard Area Community Center, where she worked as a Court Advocate, and Case Manager. There, she helped advocate for victims of domestic violence, accompanying and supporting them both in court, and when speaking to law enforcement.
In 2018, Erika dove deeper into the field of law, and took a Paralegal position at Life Span, where she continued to hone her advocacy skills, working with domestic violence survivors and assisting both immigration, and family law attorneys. Throughout her life, and over the course of her career, Erika has seen firsthand that the low-income Latinx community are one of the most vulnerable populations in Illinois, and as a Community Navigator for FLAP, she is committed to doing whatever she can to support her community, to ensure that they are treated with the same dignity, and justice as everyone else.
Nieves Ruiz developed her passion to help the Latinx community during her life experience in Cuba where she studied Economics at Havana University. Nieves shared the needs and constraints in her country with family and friends and was linked to aid programs to improve the quality of life in children and adults and also, donation projects. She had the opportunity to work for companies in Denver Colorado that allowed her to develop Marketing and Sales programs aimed at generating jobs and the possibility of studies. In the past years she created her own company in Cuba where the community could receive cultural programs, intellectual improvement of their physical condition. Nieves has worked directly with families in neighborhoods and schools with on-street sports programs and parks for children. At this time as Community Navigator, she helps supporting the Latinx community so their rights are respected and have a chance for income greater. She is an active representative of this community. Her responsibilities include daily review on the FLAP hotline and emails, assigning potential cases to the appropriate staff for follow up and delivering Know your Rights presentations virtually. Nieves is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Fidelia Salazar was born in Mexico and moved to the United States with the desire to improve herself and seek better opportunities. She worked in restaurants and factories while studying at Triton College and finished an English as a Second Language program, then she became heavily involved in outreach opportunities in Illinois’ immigrant communities. As a Community Navigator Contractor at FLAP, Fidelia conducts community outreach and distributes educational and Know Your Rights material to educate the Latinx community on their labor rights.
By doing contractor work at FLAP, she has learned that her work has been helping fill a gap of resources she’s seen in her Latinx community and all over Illinois. By doing outreach during the pandemic, Fidelia has learned just how important it is to inform the Latinx immigrant community about information and resources there are available to these communities. Her work has helped tackle the challenges of misinformation and disinformation in the Latinx community in Illinois. Fidelia enjoys knowing that, at the end of every day, she was able to at least empower and connect a worker with the right FLAP resources. Fidelia is Latina, a native Spanish speaker, speaks conversational English and lives in North Lake in Cook County.
Juan Esteban Zamarripa
Juan Esteban Zamarripa was born in Coahuila, Mexico. Due to the lack of opportunities, he was forced to immigrate to the United States, more than 22 years ago, in hopes of achieving the “American Dream’ currently residing in Chicago. He graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila as a postgraduate public accountant, specializing in taxes and finances. Juan Esteban was raised by his two hard working parents who influenced the importance of performing an honorable job at all times. Seeing his mother’s will power encouraged him to always stand up for himself, accomplish his goals and dreams and evolved into an outstanding law-abiding citizen.
At the young age of 6, Juan Esteban began to work as street vendor in order to help and support his large family. His work history ranges from working as a butcher, in the cleaning and restaurant industries and administrative services. As Juan Esteban left his family and roots for a better living in the U.S., he underwent many injustices where his labor rights were violated and was taken advantage of. Therefore, it is essential to Juan Esteban to educate his Latinx community informing them that they have labor rights disregarding their status of immigration.
His hopes are that all worker’s efforts are respected and honored. To begin making a difference, Juan Esteban proudly began working as a Community Navigator Contractor at FLAP where his endeavor and dedication promoted him as Community Navigator Coordinator Contractor. His job consists of delivering Know Your Rights presentations and Community Outreach and Education material with information and resources throughout the state of Illinois. Juan Esteban coordinates the Community Navigators team. Juan Esteban is native Spanish speaker, speaks conversational English and currently resides in West Lawn in Chicago, IL.
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.
Arthur S. Gunn
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.