Click on the names below to read staff bios and contact information.
Cynthia Figueroa began her tenure as President and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos in January 2011. In this capacity, she has fiscal oversight of more than $22 million dedicated to strengthening Latino communities through social, economic, education and health services. Founded in 1977, Congreso is the City of Philadelphia’s largest nonprofit agency providing expert services to the Latino community, and has been recognized as one of the Top 25 Hispanic nonprofits in the nation by Hispanic Business magazine. The agency employs more than 200 full-time employees.
Immediately before leading Congreso, Ms. Figueroa served as the Deputy Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS). Highlights of her time working at DHS include leading a comprehensive two-year alignment process addressing all community-based child welfare prevention services and overseeing the contracting of services to over 200 social service providers. She also led the development and implementation of the Education Support Center, which has quickly become recognized as providing innovative solutions to enhance the educational outcomes of children in the child welfare system.
For six years prior to joining DHS, Ms. Figueroa served as the Executive Director of Women Against Abuse, the largest domestic violence agency in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under Ms. Figueroa’s leadership, Women Against Abuse increased its operating budget from $2 million to $5 million and grew its endowment to $3 million. She also executed a comprehensive building development project with the City of Philadelphia to expand the number of domestic violence shelter beds by 50% for victims of domestic violence. The five years before her time at Women Against Abuse were spent working in a variety of capacities at Congreso and overseeing several of the organization’s programs including behavioral health services, women’s wellness programs and Latina domestic violence programs.
In 2010 Ms Figueroa was selected for the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship and traveled to Chile and Argentina to explore women leadership models in the government and the private sector. Based on her leadership she has also received the following awards and recognitions: The University of Pennsylvania Outstanding Leadership Award (2005), Al Dia Latina Woman of Merit (2002), Philadelphia Business Journal 40 Under 40 (2003), Impacto’s Most Influential Latinos, top 10 under 40 (2009), and the Philadelphia Flyers Community Leadership Award (2008).
Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Ms. Figueroa has a bachelor’s degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. She resides in Mount Airy with her husband Robert Clark, daughter Lola, and son Santiago.
Sybille Damas joined Congreso in 2003 as Division Director of Neighborhood and Family Development. Today, she leads its Human Resources, IT and Facilities departments.
She was drawn to a career in social work when visiting her parents’ native Haiti, seeing for the first-time the marked disparities between the haves and have nots. Back home in the United States, she dedicated her educational and professional pursuits to ensuring that there be no excuse for such disparities here. She began to work in the field of geriatric care before focusing her efforts on child welfare and juvenile justice advocacy.
While at Congreso, Ms. Damas has played a role in the development of its innovative Primary Client Management (PCM) model, allowing for measured, holistic service delivery across systems. She led the agency’s relationship with the National Council of La Raza and the National Housing Network, allowing Congreso to grow its mortgage counseling assistance and foreclosure prevention services. Through her leadership, Congreso focused on reducing the number of minority children in foster care, providing intensive services for at-risk families in crisis, and keeping urban violence from manifesting in families. She has managed the agency’s relationship with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development and the Philadelphia Office of Supportive Housing. Ms. Damas also led Congreso’s work in addressing Disproportionate Minority Contact, specifically as it relates to youth in the justice system , in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation and the National Council of La Raza, of the Latino Juvenile Justice Network.
Ms. Damas is a married mother of two, residing in Ardmore, Pa., where she volunteers at her daughters’ school. She has a Masters in Social Work from Temple University and is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College’s Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute. She enjoys running and playing sports. She is a former competitive swimmer and soccer player, and is a fan of many musical genres from classic rock to jazz.
Ms. Maldonado is Congreso’s Chief Program Officer. In this role, she has oversight of the agency's four programmatic divisions, including Education and Workforce Services, Family and Housing Services, Health Care Services and Healtth Promotion and Wellenss.
She came to Congreso in 1995 and served at all levels in the agency, from Health Services Operations Coordinator, to Manager of HIV Prevention and Education Services, to Director of HIV Services, to Vice President of the Health Promotion and Wellness Division before being promoted to Senior Vice President of Health Services. As Senior Vice President, Ms. Maldonado is responsible for the fiscal management, development, strategic planning, and integration of Congreso’s health services, which number over 20 different programs, including an on-site federally qualified health center.
Ms. Maldonado is very active in the community, serving on numerous boards, including Planned Parenthood, YMCA-North, the Community Planning Group and the Ryan White Title I Groups (at the office of HIV Planning). She is also a member of the Review Panel for the City of Philadelphia's AIDS Activities Coordinating Office.
In 2013, Ms. Maldonado co-chaired the National Council of La Raza's Institute for Hispanic Health's Annual Health Summit, a component of NCLR's annual conference which attracts over 5,000 attendees from throughout the nation. She also joined the National Alliance for Hispanic Health in Bogota, Colombia as a presenter at its first international conference. An established leader in public health, Ms. Maldonado was invited to a press conference in the White House Rose Garden that same year, where President Barack Obama discussed the Affordable Care Act.
Ms. Maldonado holds a Masters of Health Services Administration from Strayer University and a Business Administration Degree from Temple University.
Julie Avalos manages Congreso’s Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) Division, including its Latina Domestic Violence Program, Maternal Infant and Child Health Services, and Health Education and training programs. She first joined Congreso as an intern in 2001, and upon obtaining her Bachelors in Social Work from Temple University in 2002, she returned to serve as a Lead Case Manager within its health programs. Throughout her time at Congreso she has successfully developed, managed, and implemented several aspects of health intervention and prevention programming most recently as the Manager of the Women’s Wellness Department, overseeing the domestic violence program. In 2006 Ms. Avalos completed her Masters Social Work, with a clinical concentration, from Temple University.
Ms. Avalos credits Congreso with providing great opportunities to learn leadership, supervisory skills, mentorship and program development which she is then eager to share with her team and new employees. She is passionate about ensuring the integration of trauma-informed services, the professional development of her staff, and offering culturally-specific trainings to other service providers and systems regarding domestic violence, trauma, women and children’s health disparities and social services delivery to the Latino community. Ms. Avalos has or currently serves on a number of Boards and membership committees dedicated to women and family health issues, including the Mayor’s Taskforce on Domestic Violence, North, Inc., Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Healthy Start Advisory Board and the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Team.
A native of South Philadelphia, Ms Avalos is proud of her multicultural heritage. While her husband is from Mexico and she herself is fluent in Spanish, her background is of Indian, English, Irish and Swedish descent.
Ms. Avalos currently resides in Delaware County with her husband and two children, Naveena and Nayel, and enjoys cooking and eating Indian and Mexican foods that keep her children connected to their cultures. They play with their two dogs, Misty and Achilles, when not watching the Phillies or Chivas games. Ms. Avalos loves reading, and focuses on biographical and theoretical nonprofit leadership studies as well as readings that enhance her knowledge of trauma informed practices.
Dominique Bernardo is an operations expert who utilizes 18 years of experience in nonprofit management and consulting to assist nonprofit organizations operate more efficiently and effectively while accounting for their most valuable asset – the employees.
Dominique is known for her quick-thinking, analytical focus, attention to detail, and ability to marry the acumen of the business world with the values of the nonprofit, social work field. She has extensive experience in Operations (system design, department integration, internal controls), Policies and Procedures (developing, evaluation, refining), Data and Evaluation (planning, determining intended impact, creating system), and Staffing (training, hiring, motivating, and evaluating).
Dominique began her career as a financial auditor with Coopers and Lybrand, specializing in nonprofit organizations. She has worked as a community organizer for immigrants at Chelsea Human Services Collaborative in the Boston area, and as a social worker for high risk adolescent girls in Latin America through a Shine A Light Foundation Fellowship. Her most recent experience includes 10 years in senior management at Congreso de Latinos Unidos, one of the top 25 Latino nonprofits in the country. Her program experience there includes directing more than 15 in-school and after-school youth development and truancy/delinquency prevention programs for at-risk youth and managing a division of $2.5M in contracts. She also served as interim CFO at Congreso for 8 months, overseeing human resources, information technology, facilities, and fiscal. She spent 2 years overseeing development and marketing, developing systems for grant tracking and communications. Her most recent role as Vice President of Quality Assurance involves oversight of the agency’s business plan strategy as well as the data and evaluation department which measures the impact of the 51 programs that Congreso provides to 15,000 people annually.
A native of Norristown, Pennsylvania, Dominique is a Licensed Social Worker and also a Certified Public Accountant (inactive) in Pennsylvania. She holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Business Administration from Boston College.
Frances Dover leads Congreso’s Family and Housing Services (FHS) Division, overseeing the agency’s rapid response systems for children and families in crisis. In fiscal year 2011, the Family and Housing Services Division reached nearly half of Congreso’s more than 15,000 clients, including the prevention of 374 foreclosures. Ms. Dover first joined the agency in 2004, directing a significant number of agency and city-wide initiatives focused on truancy and delinquency prevention in Eastern North Philadelphia.
Ms. Dover holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, and has many years of experience within the realm of psychology. Prior to joining Congreso, Ms. Dover was trained as a psychometrician for both children and adults at the Pediatric Psychopharmacology Research Unit of Massachusetts General Hospital. As an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, she was part of a research team working to advance the well-being of children and adults afflicted with mental illness through clinical care, education, and research.
She chose Congreso because of its focus on community and commitment to leadership development amongst its staff. In working with her team, Ms. Dover is guided by the principle that the quality of services Congreso delivers should make this exactly the kind of place they would want their own families to turn to in a time of need. Originally from Newburgh, NY, she credits her single-mother for having served as an inspiration to serve others in need.
Today, Ms. Dover lives in Norristown, PA with her husband and two young children, Maya and Ryan.
A biography is coming soon.
Biography coming soon.
Yvette A. Núñez is Congreso's Chief Communications Officer. She came to Congreso in 2011 with more than 10 years of experience as an established communications leader. In her current capacity. Ms. Núñez oversees the agency's communications, civic engagement, events, fundraising and volunteer management.
During her tenure, the agency made its debut on Philly.com's Top Workplaces in the Region, was featured on CNN for its voter engagement work, and established its first individual donor campaign, increasing donations by 80 percent, and individual donors by 110 percent.
Ms. Núñez has served on numerous boards, including serving as former Chair of the Latino Employment Opportunities Network, Past President of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, and a former member of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress Board of Directors.
In 2013, she served as a presenter on resident and/or civic engagement at two national conferences, including the United Neighborhood Centers of America and the National Council of La Raza.
Ms. Núñez is an honor graduate of Temple University, where she earned a degree in Journalism. She is a freelance writer and has a blog on The Huffington Post.
José F. Rivera joined Congreso in 2008 as Director of Operations and Quality Assurance of its Health Promotion and Wellness Division, and now serves as Vice President of Health Care Services (HCS), overseeing the agency’s Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Behavioral Health Services and HIV/AIDS programs.
Mr. Rivera has 10 years of experience in the health sector, including direct client service and program supervision. For seven years, he managed service delivery and program implementation benefiting children and adults with developmental disabilities. He is experienced in delivering comprehensive health services training curricula, including safety, documentation, compliance, medication administration and HIPAA compliance.
Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Mr. Rivera studied at the University of Puerto Rico, where he was selected for The National Student Exchange, allowing him to spend a year at West Chester University. It was then that he first realized the significant differences in cultural attitudes towards healthy eating between his native Puerto Rico and non-Latino populations. “A lot of the foods served in schools and households in Puerto Rico are fried, leading to high cholesterol and opening the door for a host of other health issues,” explains Mr. Rivera. “I believe that food is a part of our heritage, but want to promote new behaviors towards food in this community, as chronic health issues have a direct impact on economic progress.”
Originally intending to pursue a medical degree, Mr. Rivera was inspired by a mentor who shared the impact that nonprofits have in health management, and their role as a trusted source of information for community residents. This relationship has a long-term direct impact on improved health outcomes for low-income populations. Mr. Rivera thus continued his studies at St. Joseph’s University, where he obtained an MBA in Health and Medical Services Administration.
Today, Mr. Rivera resides in Limerick, PA, where he serves on the Board of Directors of Good Samaritan Shelter, which provides safe, comfortable housing for homeless men, women and women with children in the greater Phoenixville and Ephrata areas. He is also an avid athlete, competing in triathlons and biathlons, mountain bike and adventure racing. He and his wife Sharon are the proud parents of two year-old Annabella.
Lisa Varon leads Congreso’s Education and Workforce Services (EWS) Division, overseeing its after-school, E3 Center, Learn and Work, Harcum College at Congreso and workforce programs. The Division’s focus is the education and employability of Eastern North Philadelphia residents, which the agency has long believed go hand-in-hand.
Ms. Varon has a strong passion for social justice that stems from family values, volunteer experiences and her travels abroad. Specifically, while abroad she found an openness and generosity of people in various communities around the world that fed her desire to work in a human service related field to help create the systemic changes needed to ensure equitable access to resources. Her experiences have led her to work on issues related to homelessness, mental health, juvenile justice, and youth development, amongst others.
She chose Congreso because of her work in Latin America, including a study abroad experience in Chile. She felt an affinity with the Latino culture, and wanted to apply her experiences in support of Congreso’s mission to strengthen Latino communities. She joined the agency in 2006 as Operations Manager, and has since held numerous positions, including managing the agency’s Latino Juvenile Justice Network Project, which as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change, Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice Initiative, was launched in Philadelphia and Berks Counties to reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC). She most recently served as Deputy Vice President of Partnerships at Congreso.
Since 2001, Ms. Varon has devoted her summers to Project Morry, a non-profit youth development organization that serves inner-city children in the New York region through a four-week residential summer camp, and year round support free of charge. She currently serves as a mentor and coach for college-bound campers.
Ms. Varon currently serves on the Boards of Men in Motion in the Community (MIMIC), the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the Philadelphia Disproportionate Minority Contact Work Group, and is a co-founder of Congreso’s Equipo Verde, an internal committee dedicated to ensuring that Congreso is a green place to work.
Ms. Varon holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, and is fluent in Spanish. Ms. Varon also holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a certificate in global cultures. She lives in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.