Ilana Dubester
Executive Director & Founder

Ilana was born and raised in southern Brazil and has lived in Chatham County since 1991. She founded The Hispanic Liaison in 1995 to help address the unique needs of the growing Hispanic community. Ilana has over 20 years of experience in non-profit management, program development and implementation, capacity building, fundraising, public policy, community organizing and advocacy. She left The Liaison in 2008 and returned in 2016 to revive the organization, which had closed its doors in September 2015. Her former organizations include Hispanics in Philanthropy, miraclefeet, the NC Cooperative Extension Service, El Centro Latino, and The Center for What Works. Since 1995, she has been devoted to advancing the rights of Hispanic/Latinx families at the local and state levels. Ilana is a state certified Spanish/English court interpreter and is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew. She attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has an Associate Degree in Social Studies.

Hannia Benitez
Deputy Director, Lee County Office

Hannia is originally from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, and moved to Siler City with her family in 1998. Hannia graduated from Jordan Matthews High School, and in 2014 earned a certificate as a Certified Nursing Assistant from CCCC. Hannia spent most of her life in Siler City but also lived in Sanford for several years after she got married. Hannia joined The Liaison’s board of directors in 2016 and served as Board President for the past 3 years. After years of helping the community through volunteer service, Hannia is thrilled to lead the new Hispanic Liaison office in Sanford and advance the rights of Latinxs at the local and state levels. Previously, she worked as a bilingual case investigator for Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, as a general manager for MJ’s Staffing Inc., and as a site manager for Community Management Corporation. Hannia brings a wealth of knowledge and experience including business management, human resources, housing management and healthcare. Hannia is fluent in English and Spanish. She lives in Siler City with her husband and three children.

Elena C. Gonzalez
Program Coordinator, Workers’ Health & Safety

Elena Gonzalez is originally from Suchiate, Chiapas, a town on the border of Mexico and Guatemala. Elena grew up in Mexico, but also lived for many years in Guatemala. She moved to the US in 1986 and to Siler City in 1999. As soon as she arrived in Siler City, she found The Hispanic Liaison and an opportunity to get involved in the community. Ever since then, Elena has been a part of El Vínculo, first as a client, then a volunteer, and she served as a member of the Board of Directors for 10 years. Elena has also volunteered with Mujeres Mejorando el Futuro, Chatham Together and El Pueblo. In 2009, she received the United Way’s Volunteer of the Year awards at the local and state levels, she was nominated The Liaison. Previously, Elena worked as an Assistant Nutritionist at Siler City Elementary and was the Breast Cancer Prevention Coordinator for El Pueblo in Raleigh for 3 years. She graduated from CCCC’s Natural Chef Program, and has been a trained chef since she lived in Mexico. Elena is honored for the opportunity to support our community and fight for the rights of workers. She lives in Siler City with her husband Juan Carlos Gonzalez.

Selina Lopez
Program Director, Orgullo Latinx Pride Youth Program

Selina is originally from Mexico, born in Xaltianguis, Guerrero. She immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was a child. In 2016, she became a U.S. citizen. She grew up and attended school in the small town of Vaughan, in Warren County, NC. Selina completed her high school at the School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. In 2017, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with degrees in psychology and Hispanic Literature and Cultures. Selina is the first person in her family to attend and graduate from a university. During her undergraduate studies at UNC, Selina was a co-director for NC SLI for the Families United for Education Initiative, where she taught classes for parents, in Spanish, about the college enrollment process. She was also the co-director for SOAR (STEAM, Outreach, Achievement, Recreation), a program for Latinx youth at McDougle Middle School in Carrboro. Selina has dedicated her time helping the Latinx community and advancing the opportunities for Latinx families and youth to pursue a higher education.

José Lopez Garcia
Program Assistant, Orgullo Latinx Pride Youth Program

José is originally from Guanajuato, Mexico. He moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. José graduated from Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City and earned a double major in Accounting and Spanish from Guilford College. While in college, José was the Secretary of Hispanos Unidos de Guilford (HUG), and Chairman of the Campus Activities Board (CAB). In his last year at Guilford, he was one of the first Latinx and first DACAmented student to serve as president of CAB. José returned to Siler City to give back to his community. Prior to joining El Vínculo, he served as a Dual-Language Science Teacher and Parent Liaison for Chatham County Schools where he invested in the academic achievement and wellbeing of students and parents.

Will Mendoza 
COVID-19 Project Manager

Will is originally from Bolivia and has lived in the US since 2007. His work experience is in Strategy Consulting for the healthcare and IT sectors. Will has over 10 years of work experience in Product and Project Management, Market Research, and COVID-19 relief efforts for underserved communities. He is passionate about mentoring and technology-enabled business transformation. Will holds an MBA from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and also a graduate degree in Economic Development from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Noemi Mora Marcial
Program Assistant

Noemi was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but raised in Siler City her whole life. Her family’s origins are from Mexico; her mother is from Veracruz and her father is from Oaxaca. She graduated from Jordan Matthews High School in 2019. During her junior and senior years she participated in Orgullo Latinx Pride, El Vínculo’s youth leadership program. During her time in the group she became passionate about volunteer work and giving back to the community which inspired her to start an internship after her graduation. She now serves as a consultant for The Hispanic Liaison while studying at Central Carolina Community College where she is getting an Associates to later transfer to a four university to major in Social Work.

Janet Ramirez
Program & Volunteer Coordinator, Chatham County

Janet is a native of Michoacán, Mexico, and moved to Siler City with her family in 2000. Janet graduated from Jordan Matthews High School in 2013. She is the first generation in her family to attend college receiving a certificate in Electronic Engineering Technology from CCCC. Janet decided to change her career after meeting Ilana Dubester in April 2016 while she was working as an intern at Chatham Habitat for Humanity under the WIA program. The Hispanic Liaison had helped her mother and family in the past, and Janet wanted to give back to her community. As a child, Janet was an avid listener of The Liaison’s weekly youth radio show “Teen Shout”. Janet joined our staff in May 2016. She is a fluent in English and Spanish.

Maria Gabriela Sanchez
Program & Volunteer Coordinator, Lee County

Maria is originally from Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. She moved to Florida in 2013 when she was 16 years old. She has lived in Cameron, Harnett County, since 2018. During her time in Nicaragua, she volunteered for church projects – feeding the homeless, coordinating a weekly food kitchen for low-income children, and organizing an annual Christmas toy drive. In Florida, she volunteered at a nursing home where she coordinated recreational activities for the residents. Maria graduated from High School in Miami and obtained a phlebotomy certification in Fayetteville, NC. She is currently enrolled at Fayetteville Tech Community College and wants to pursue a degree in Clinical Psychology. Before joining The Liaison, Maria worked as an account manager for All American Fire Protection, and as a customer service representative for Kelly Connect and E-Clerx. Maria’s past volunteer service helped her realize that her life’s calling is to serve her community. In her free time, Maria enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

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