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. 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.
Alexandra is presently the Executive Director of the Farmworker & Landscaper Advocacy Project –FLAP – Proyecto de Ayuda para Trabajadores del Campo y Jardineros, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving working conditions for low-income workers and their households in the following industries: cannery, farms, greenhouse, landscaping, meat, nursery, packinghouse, poultry, restaurants, and snow plowing. The organization carries out its mission through advocacy, community outreach and education, litigation, community legal education, information, and referrals, partnering with other organizations to fight human labor trafficking, preventing family separations by helping immigrants secure dual citizenship for their children and facilitates the access to cash transfers to very low-income populations to supplement lost wages.
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 FLAP 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 200 organizations, including law firms and foundations, in Illinois and other States 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 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 helping 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. It has delivered over 12,000 “Know Your Rights” presentations. Since April 2020, there have been more than 40,900 phone calls for FLAP with about 38,000 calls related to COVID-19 for that period. FLAP has secured cash donations to 2,730 very low-income Latinx individuals making an impact on roughly 16,380 family members for a total of $1,459,084 cash distribution. 131,216 COVID-19 educational materials with information and resources have been delivered. 85,158 Personnel Protective Equipment has been distributed. Of those 42,780 went directly to Illinois’ Farmworkers and 8,052 to immigrant children.
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 Southeast Side neighborhood in Chicago. 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 one of FLAP’s Bilingual Program Manager, her responsibilities include managing 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.
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.
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.
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.
Meet Our Staff
Denisse Gaitan is a first-generation Latina from Highland Park, IL. She is a graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her B.A in Latina/o Studies and Global Studies. At U of I, she actively participated in advocating for the immigrant community both on campus and off. As an intern at the University YMCA- New American Welcome Center, she helped develop the community navigators program, conducted Know Your Rights presentations, and connected the Latinx immigrant community with local resources.
As a daughter of immigrants, she knows first-hand the experiences low-income and immigrant families encounter due to lack of resources and language barriers. Her passion for service began when she volunteered at after school programs, using her fluency in English and Spanish to help other first-generation students.
As a Bilingual Outreach and Intake Assistant, her responsibilities include, community outreach efforts, labor rights education, and refer community members to resources. Denisse reads, writes, and speaks English and Spanish.
Diana Vargas is a first-generation Latina from Little Village, Chicago. She is a graduate of Dominican University, where she received her Bachelor’s in Political Science and Psychology. She is bilingual; she can fluently speak, read, and write in both Spanish and English. Her determination to help the immigrant and underprivileged community began at a young age by witnessing the struggles, setbacks, and frustrations her predominantly Latino immigrant community experienced. She sought opportunities working with them in Chicago and surrounding suburbs after graduating college.
She began organizing as a fellow for Casa Michoacán in the “Juntos Podemos” campaign, where she helped undervalued and underprivileged immigrant communities navigate the citizenship and DACA process through extensive outreach. During her time as an organizing fellow, she learned the importance of grassroots organizing as a tool to effect change at the local, regional, and national levels.
Through her continued passion for helping underprivileged communities, she joined First Defense Legal Aid. At FDLA, she taught Know Your Rights workshops, trained peer educators about alternatives to policing through their Help Not Jail program, alongside lawyers, and connected community members to resources through their 24/7 hotline to help assuage unnecessary contact with police.
Diana continues to help the underprivileged and immigrant community through her position as Bilingual Outreach and Intake Assistant. She supports the organization by doing community outreach and educating workers on their labor rights across Illinois.
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.
As the Development and Communications Assistant 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.
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 Administrative Assistant and Community Navigator, her responsibilities include daily review of the FLAP hotline and emails, assigning potential cases to the appropriate staff for follow up, doing translations and interpretations and delivering Know your Rights presentations both virtually and in person. Yoselin is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Community Navigators and other Consultants
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.
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.
María De Jesús Albarrán
María Albarrán graduated in Mexico with a degree in business administration. She immigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago. Since then, she has been involved in the communities of Bellwood, Melrose Park, Maywood and the surrounding areas doing volunteer work for several churches and organizations including Proyecto de Accion de los Suburbios del Oeste -PASO-. As FLAP Community Navigator Consultant, Maria does Community Outreach and Education educating low-income Latinx Community on their rights at work. She lives in Bellwood in Cook County, is a native Spanish speaker and speaks conversational English.
Nieves Ruiz developed her passion to help the Latinx community in Cuba, her native Country, where she studied Economics at Havana University. There, she shared the same needs and constraints in her country as her family and friends, and worked for aid programs to improve the quality of life for Latinx children and adults.
In the USA, 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 educational programs for the Latinx Community. In the last two years, she created her own company in Cuba where the community could receive both cultural programs, and programs that helped to improve their physical health. She has worked directly with families in neighborhoods and schools, helping to direct sports programs and run parks for children.
An active representative of the Latinx community, at this time as Community Navigator Consultant at FLAP, Nieves supports the Latinx community in Illinois, to help in the fight for equal rights. Her responsibilities include review on the FLAP hotline and email, assigning potential cases to the appropriate staff for follow up, translations and interpretations, and delivering Know your Rights presentations. Nieves is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Robert Marovich has joined FLAP as a Grant Writer Consultant.