Staff

Guillermo Velazquez

 Executive Director

Guillermo Velazquez is the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC). As Executive Director, Mr. Velazquez is responsible for the operations of PHDC and for implementing its mission in economic and community development. A Business Incubator, Housing, Employment, Investment, Training, and Career Development are activities of the Hispanic Corporation.

Mr. Velazquez began his career at Desarrollo Empresarial Mexicano (DESEM), an entrepreneurship program in Mexico City (also known as Junior Achievement Mexico), where he was a member for ten years. The program teaches entrepreneurs how to start, manage, and operate a new business. Mr. Velazquez has a wealth of experience assisting U.S.-based companies in expanding internationally and foreign companies seeking to develop their local and international markets. His specialty is market entry strategies and market penetration. 

Mr. Velázquez has an MBA in Global Management and Business Administration from Point Park University, a bachelor's degree in Business Relations, Marketing, and International Business. Furthermore, he also holds a diploma in computer systems and an English diploma as a second language. He is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and English.

Howard Alvarez

Programs Director

Howard Alvarez is the Programs Director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation.  He manages the Housing, Employment, Community, and the Business Incubator programs.  Howard also supports the Executive Director to over seeing the operations of PHDC. He collects data to report the impact of these programs on the Latino community in the greater Pittsburgh region to improve their execution and advocates for access at city, county and state level. He also manages educational activities at PHDC to inform and create advancement in the Hispanic community. 

Howard has a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Affairs from the Central University of Venezuela.  He is currently in the second year of his Master’s Degree of Public and International Affairs with a concentration in International Political Economy.  Howard enjoys interacting with the community, helping and empowering people.  During his studies, he was captain of the AUDAS - International Team of Spanish Debate, and faculty advisor of delegations for models of the United Nations in Venezuela, and other countries.

Lorena Ficarra

Housing Navigator

Lorena Jimenez Ficarra is a Housing Navigator at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation. As Housing Navigator she assists the Latino Community to connect with Landlords to obtain access to rental properties. She also works with Real Estate Agents assisting in the process of homeownership. 

Lorena has experience in Real Estate Management, providing services to Latino families for over 6 years, which leads her to understand the needs of the Latino community. Lorena’s ability to connect with members of the community is key to the success of the housing initiative at PHDC. 

Aurora Pinto


Bilingual Employment and Community Navigator

Aurora Pinto is a Bilingual Employment and Community Navigator for PHDC. She is responsible for

connecting community members with employment opportunities in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

She also identifies and connects community members in need of legal assistance, employment inquiries,

and coordination of job applications with employers. She also assists the Program Manager in

coordinating activities with partners related to tax preparation for the Latino community, as well as

various community events.


Aurora has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric (Communications) from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where she has taught various courses in the area of ​​Communications. At the same University, she obtained her Master's degree in Corporate Communication, and in her native Venezuela she graduated as a Social Communicator at the Andres Bello Catholic University, in Caracas.


Aurora has extensive experience in the area of ​​Corporate Communications in the petrochemical industry in her country of origin, as well as in advertising and public relations.


Aurora enjoys outdoor sports such as hiking, jogging, and bicycling. As an art lover, she regularly

participates in various Urban Sketching groups in the city of Pittsburgh.

Ernesto Peroche

Business, Marketing, & Loans Consultant

Ernesto Peroche is the Business, Marketing & Loans Consultant at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation.  He helps improve the technology and financial evaluations for new and existing businesses in Pittsburgh’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

Ernesto is from Santa Fe Argentina, where he studied Industrial Engineering at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral.  He is also a professor at the same university and works as an entrepreneur in different software for organizations.  He is involved in digital transformation projects for public and private organizations. 

Lizeth Villa 

Business & Commercial Affairs Consultant

Lizeth Villa is the Business & Commercial Affairs Consultant at PHDC.   She aids businesses with acceleration,  economic development, community reinvestment, clientele administrative support, permits, licensing processing, business capital advising, financial aid, and entrepreneurship education.

Lizeth has a Bachelor’s Degree in Doctor of Laws from the UGMA university in Venezuela and a Master’s in International Contracts Specialist in Italy.  She managed a law firm in Commercial and Civil Law in Venezuela, and her experience in the insurance industry also complements her career. Lizeth looks forward to getting more involved with the Hispanic community and collaborating with Latin integration.  

Selene Alvarado Cuevas 

Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant

Selene Alvarado is a Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant for the Hispanic Corporation Incubator. Her job is to evaluate the business ideas of aspiring entrepreneurs before they can incorporate their companies. 

Originally from Mexico, Selene holds a degree in Communication and a master's degree in Philosophy from ITESO, the Jesuit university in Guadalajara. She has gained professional experience in various fields including communication, advertising, and institutional relations while working for several large companies.

Jose Fabricio Moreno

Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant 

Jose Fabricio Moreno is a Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant at PHDC.  During his time in Panama, he studied and completed high school, graduating with honors on December 15, 2017.  His academic performance allowed him to obtain a full scholarship to study at the Universidad Latino Americana de Comercio Exterior. 


Jose has diverse interests, among them, he likes to travel around the world and enjoys photography.  He also has a passion for languages, is fluent in English and aspires to learn Portuguese, French, and Arabic in the future. 

Alexandra Segura 

Food Certification Business Consultant

Alexandra Segura joined PHDC in 2021 as a Business Coordinator Consultant. Also, she works as the Manager of a Mexican Restaurant in Pittsburgh.  She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in Business Management with a minor in Marketing.  

Currently, as a Food Manager Certification Consultant, she dedicates herself helping entrepreneurs to success in opening their business providing the food manager certification workshops and exams from the Department of Health of Allegheny County.  She hopes to become a true industry expert in this field through successful end-to-end project management practice and hands-on experience.  She looks forward to continuing learning about new cultures and hopes to provide her knowledge to the community.  She values time, respect, and freedom. 

Jacobo Dantus

Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant

Jacobo Dantus is a Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant of the Business Incubator Program at PHDC. His tasks include assisting rising Hispanic entrepreneurs to bring their prospective businesses to light.  In addition, Jacobo assists existing businesses with permits and other requirements they may need to take their business to the next step.  


Jacobo is a Mexican American born and raised in the US, and speaks both English and Spanish, a skill which he has used to aid in translation, and to communicate with the Hispanic community in Pittsburgh.  He lives in Washington DC but is currently studying at the University of Pittsburgh and pursuing a Major in Finance, Minor in Philosophy, and a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  While working at PHDC he looks to both aid the development of the Hispanic community in Pittsburgh and learn the ins and outs of starting and running a business.

Kiara Lazu

Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant 

Kiara Lazu is a Business Analyst Coordinator Consultant.   She assists the Business Analysts with time sensitive deliveries.  She also acts as a translator for business documents and provides support to the day to day activities.   Currently, Kiara has been focused on helping business owners with permit applications ranging from health permits to building permits.


Kiara is originally from Connecticut and is in Pittsburgh studying Business Administration with concentration in Strategic Management at Carnegie Mellon University.  Outside of work, she is often creating student events as the Internal Outreach Chair at Carnegie Mellon’s Spanish and Latino Student Association.  Because of her background in non profit organizations and the arts, she is passionate about applying her studies to supporting marginalized communities.

Juan Jaramillo

Events Coordinator Consultant 

Since his arrival in the US from his native country of Venezuela, Juan Jaramillo has established himself as a prominent violinist in a variety of music scenes around the country.    He is a product of the internationally famous “EL Sistema '' orchestra program that started in Venezuela.  Currently he is the Principal Second of the Wheeling Symphony and first violinist for the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet Orchestras, as well as the Sarasota Opera and Sarasota Orchestra.    In addition, Juan is the Events Coordinator Consultant at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation.  Juan has also shared the stage with international artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kansas, Ray Charles, Bernadette Peters and more.


Juan received his Bachelor’s Degree and Artist Diploma from Duquesne University and also earned a Master’s Degree from Penn State University.  When he is not performing, rehearsing, or teaching, Juan enjoys running, cooking and the movies. 

Denise Agnello

HR Admin Coordinator Consultant

Denise Agnello is a HR Admin Coordinator Consultant at PHDC.   As HR Admin Coordinator, Denise is responsible for providing support in the operations of PHDC.  She began her career at a large local hospital in the Human Resource Department and then transferred to Medical Imaging as an Administrative Coordinator.   While working in the medical field she gained valuable experience.  Denise utilized her skills to start, manage and operate several private practice outpatient physical therapy clinics in the south hills of Pittsburgh. 


Denise has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.   She enjoys helping people reach their goals.  Outside of work,  she will be found exercising, and spending time with family and friends. 

Sandy Ruiz

Bilingual Intake Coordinator Consultant 

My name is Sandy Jacqueline Ruiz Linan, I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Guatemala, I am the intake coordinator at PHDC, I take the calls to welcome and register clients,  gather information about the client and create a profile on the PHDC platform. Also I am the ISAC Navigator, I help refugees and immigrants thrive in Allegheny county.  


I studied Marketing at the Universidad Mariano Galvez in Guatemala.  I joined PHDC to learn and be able to contribute to the Latino Community realizing its dreams. My hobbies are playing board games, making crafts and making designs in the Cricut program.

Alice Rivera

Bilingual Employment Coordinator Consultant 

Alice Rivera joined PHDC in September 2023 as a Bilingual Employment Coordinator Consultant.  She assists in connecting community members with employment opportunities in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.   Alice also works as a legal assistant and document reviewer.  While at PHDC, she hopes to continue to contribute to the Hispanic and Latino communities in the area. 


Alice is originally from Puerto Rico; she has lived in  Pittsburgh for 9 years.  She graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University of PR, where she majored in Psychology.   Outside of work she enjoys reading, painting, and spending time with friends and family.

Diana Andrade

Administrative Assistant Consultant

Diana Andrade is an Administrative Assistant Consultant at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation. Her daily activities include helping the office staff, making sure not to leave out any details, and managing all phone calls, emails, and correspondence. Diana is aware of the business start-up process, and ideas that people bring to PHDC every day in search of guidance.

Diana studied Law at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo in Mexico. She joined PHDC to learn and to contribute to the Latino Community.  Diana enjoys learning from the people who come to PHDC and she is very grateful for the opportunity and plans to continue assisting her community.  

Simone Pazian 

Portuguese Outreach Navigator Consultant

Simone Pazian has a degree in Public Relations and Pedagogy and a postgraduate degree from USP (University of Sal Paulo/Brazil) in People Management.  In addition, she has taken several courses in Business Management and Finance.

Simone worked in the Logistics Area for two large multinationals.  After this experience, she migrated her career to Human Resources,  where she had the opportunity to work at a logistics company and was  responsible for structuring the Human Resources Department.  

After gaining experience, Simone decided to open a company in the Pet Industry.   Along the way, she specialized in Business Management and networked to share experiences.  Her company was referenced as a Business Model for companies in the same segment.  It was a moment of great satisfaction of professional and personal growth.

Leila Vázquez

Portuguese Coordinator Consultant 

Leila Vazquez is the Portuguese Coordinator Consultant at PHDC, a recently established position aimed at providing the Brazilian community with the same resources and opportunities offered to the Hispanic community.  In her role as the Brazilian Navigator, Leila will focus on the three key pillars of the PHDC - Employment, Housing and Business incubator - providing valuable assistance to Brazilians as they strive to achieve success in their personal and professional endeavors as immigrants in the USA.


With over 20 years experience working with immigrants as a teacher, translator and service coordinator, Leila is perfectly suited to use her wealth of knowledge to support the Brazilian community that has been lacking in initiatives such as those offered by PHDC.   Her degree in Portuguese and English as a second language from the esteemed University Gama Filho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, along with her specialization in translation, make her a valuable asset to the community she serves. 

Jose Maria Siqueira DaSilva

Portuguese Outreach Navigator Consultant

Jose Maria Siqueira is a Brazilian native of the municipality of Cameta in the state of Para, located in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.  He arrived in Pittsburgh four years ago and has recently joined PHDC assisting the Brazilian community in their quest for housing, employment, social support, and potential business and investment opportunities.   At PHDC, he also organizes events that commemorate important dates in Latin American culture and history.


Jose Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in law, and postgraduate qualifications in Municipal Law and Natural Resource Management and Local Development.  His extensive professional background spans more than two decades of service in the legal field at the Court Of Accounts of the Municipalities of the State of Para.  Additionally, he has practiced law in areas such as Civil, Labor and Constitutional.  He also served as the Secretary-General of the Ethics Tribunal and as the Director of Research at the Higher School of Advocacy at the Brazilian Bar Associate in the state of Para.

Beyond his legal pursuits, Jose Maria is also a trained musician and composer.


Santiago Borja

Housing Consultant

Santiago Borja is a Housing Consultant, and he also provides support as a Business Analyst at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation. He assists the Latino community in finding properties to rent. Likewise, he assists PHDC entrepreneurs in new business issues.


Santiago Borja is from Quito-Ecuador, graduated in International Business at UIDE, with an exchange semester at UFPel-Brazil in the Faculty of Administration.


He began his professional career at TATA Consultancy Services in the Business Quality area. He developed his professional career in the area of administration, business and finance


Past Interns 

Nathaniel Scanlon

Business analyst Volunteer

Nathaniel Scanlon is a business analyst intern for PHDC. Tasks include conducting market research and aiding in the development of business plans. Other duties include assisting Hispanic entrepreneurs from the Pittsburgh area in incorporating and creating their businesses, and assisting with other tasks as needed.

Nathaniel is a native from Pittsburgh, born and raised in the south hills. Using previous knowledge of the city and familiarity with the area, Nathaniel contributes to aid more development for the Hispanic community. Currently, he attends Carnegie Mellon University majoring in Statistics and Machine Learning and is considering either an additional major in Business Administration or Computer Science. Through working at PHDC he hopes to gain insight into how businesses operate and how non-profit organizations are managed.

In his free time, he enjoys going to the gym or hanging out with friends.



Jack Kiggins

Community Engagement Intern

Jack Kiggins is working part-time with the Community Engagement sector at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation. He will be primarily helping with housing coordination, organizing local events, and assisting the Latino community with navigating the Pittsburgh area. 

Jack is from Atlanta, Georgia and recently completed his first year at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Ethics, History, and Public Policy. He plans to eventually pursue a career in law, but wanted to first gain some experience working with the Latino community in Pittsburgh. Jack has some background with Spanish through high school, but is eager to learn more and plans to develop his communication skills over the summer. Beyond work, Jack enjoys playing football and often watches European matches in his free time — his favorite club is Arsenal FC in London. 

While interning at PHDC, Jack hopes to develop his skills in bilingual communication to help as many in the Latino community as possible. 

Valeria Silva Yepez

Community
Engagement Intern

Valeria Silva Yepez is the current Community Engagement Intern at the PHDC, and her work includes assisting with translation and interpretation of documents, coordination of events, and developing community engagement strategies. 

She is originally from Venezuela, currently attending the University of Pittsburgh and is pursuing a double major in Psychology and Spanish, a certificate in Latin American studies, and minors in Portuguese, Gender Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and Studio Arts. She is also a board member of the Luso-Brazilian Student Association (Brazil Nuts), and has completed individual field research in Colombia as part of The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) Seminar and Field Trip Program at Pitt. 

Being raised in Venezuela, and moving to the US at a young age has allowed her to understand the issues immigrants can face, inspiring her academic focus and work with the community. Valeria looks forward to working with the Latin community of Pittsburgh, and helping them navigate business, employment, and community related inquiries. 

Louisiana Figueroa 

Business Analyst Coordinator

Louisiana Figueroa is the Business Analyst of the PHDC Incubator Program. She assists Hispanic entrepreneurs with the creation and incorporation of their business by performing SWOT analysis, business capital advising, permit and license processing, translating, and overall clientele administrative support in their business journey. 

Louisiana looks forward to getting more involved with the Pittsburgh Hispanic community, offering her knowledge and experience as a way to keep making progress in the development of the Hispanic community. Being raised in Peru has led her to understand the hardships Hispanic people go through in Pittsburgh, which allows her to work with the community in Pittsburgh. 

She enjoys playing instruments, going on hikes, and is very passionate about being an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights. 

Edel Arzuaga Birriel 

Business Analyst Coordinator

Edel is the Business Analyst Coordinator and Navigator. As the Business Analyst Coordinator he works to provide overall assistance to the Business Analyst. While also focusing on certifications and permits relating to the Health Department and other special events.

Edel was born and raised in Puerto Rico, he recently moved to pursue his undergraduate career at Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently majoring in Statistics and Machine Learning and plans to complete an additional major in Computer Science. In addition, he is currently serving as a mentor for students that are from low socio-economic backgrounds and historically marginalized communities by helping them navigate the higher educational system. 

During his time with PHDC, Edel looks forward to developing sustainable ways to assist Hispanic business owners by empowering them with the necessary knowledge and tools to succeed in today’s world.

Franco Chiappori

Business Analyst  Coordinator

Franco Chiappori is currently working part-time with the Business Incubator at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Corporation. He helps to conduct business and financial evaluations for rising and existing businesses in Pittsburgh's Hispanic and Latino communities. 

Franco is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida but attends the University of Pittsburgh, where he majors in Economics and minors in Hispanic Language and Culture. Franco learned Spanish through his immediate family, which is originally from Lima, Peru. Outside of work, Franco is also involved in the University of Pittsburgh's Air Force ROTC program, where he hopes to serve his country proudly as a contracting officer.

Franco looks forward to getting more involved in the Pittsburgh Hispanic community and expanding upon his professional and business skills while working at PHDC.

Sofía Galván

Community engagement/ business analyst intern

Sofia Galvan is currently working as an intern in PHDC in the programs of Community Engagement and Business Incubator. She assists in carrying out the activities that conduct housing, employment and community; as well as helping with the financial, administrative, and marketing operations, SWOT analysis, optimization assessments, and entrepreneurship boosts for new or existing business owners in Pittsburgh's Hispanic and Latino communities.

Sofia is from Mexico and studies at Tecnológico de Monterrey where she majors in Engineering in Business and IT. She currently lives in Mexico but often visits Pittsburgh since she came to live here from 2011-2014 while her dad was doing his PhD at CMU. 

From this internship she hopes to contribute to the Hispanic and Latino communities in Pittsburgh and learn new skills from working with PHDC clients that look to better their businesses.

Pamela Junqueira

Business Analyst Intern

Pamela Junqueira is currently volunteering part-time with the Business Incubator at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Corporation. She helps to conduct market and general research as well as business and financial evaluations for rising and existing businesses in Pittsburgh's Hispanic and Latino communities.

Pamela is originally from São Paulo, Brazil but attends the University of Pittsburgh, where she majors in Finance and is pursuing a certificate in International Business. Pamela is fluent in English and Portuguese. Outside of volunteering, Pamela is also involved in Women in Business, the Undergraduate Finance club, and Delta Zeta Sorority which are all student organizations at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Pamela looks forward to getting more involved in the Pittsburgh Hispanic community and expanding upon her professional and business skills while volunteering at PHDC.

Alexander Gonzalez

 Business analys

Intern

Alexander Gonzalez is currently working as a Business Incubator intern at the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation. He assists in conducting financial, marketing, and operations research, as well as evaluations for Latino owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area.

Alex is originally from Ashburn, Virginia, but is currently enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh where he majors in finance and operations management. He learned Spanish through his grandparents who are originally from Quito, Ecuador, and Asturias in Spain. Outside of his internship, Alex works as the Club Lacrosse Social Chair, and as a part time employee at restaurant here in Pittsburgh.

Alex looks forward to getting more involved in the Pittsburgh Hispanic community, while expanding on his professional and business skills.

Karla Tejeda

Community Engagement Intern

Karla Tejeda is currently working part-time for PHDC as a community engagement intern. She assists in carrying out activities regarding housing, community, and employment for the Pittsburgh community.


Karla is originally from Dallas, Texas but currently attends Carnegie Mellon University where she majors in Applied Multilingual Studies and is minoring in Hispanic Studies. Karla is also fluent in English and Spanish. Outside of her internship, Karla is Events Chair in First Together, the first generation undergrad student organization, and SALSA, the Hispanic student organization at Carnegie Mellon University.


Karla looks forward to getting more involved in the Pittsburgh Hispanic community and expand on her professional skills while interning for PHDC.


         Cecilia Mendoza

Business analyst Intern

Cecilia Mendoza is currently working as a business analyst intern for the PHDC. She uses her organizational and analytical skills to help conduct business analyses in the Hispanic and Latino communities in Pittsburgh.


Cecilia is originally from Mexico and immigrated to the United States at a young age. Now she resides in Southern California but currently attends Carnegie Mellon University. She is majoring in Information Systems and plans to minor in Global Systems and Management. Throughout her time at CMU, she has volunteered and helped at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Asides from her academics and internship, Cecilia is also involved and has participated in the executive board of  First Together, SALSA (Spanish and Latin Student Association), and  SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers). 


Cecilia looks forward to expanding her communication and professional skills while connecting with the Hispanic and Latino community in Pittsburgh.


Past Volunteers

Selene Alvarado

Communications Consultant

Selene Alvarado Cuevas Is a Consultant at PHDC, she has experience in Marketing and Communications. Currently, Selene is coordinating and deploying the Communications Entrepreneur Training Series of the Business Incubator program.  Her bilingual skills and experience are important in the educational programs of the organization.

She has a degree in Communication Sciences and a teacher in Philosophy and Social Sciences from ITESO, a Jesuit university in Guadalajara. She has developed professionally in areas related to communication, advertising, and institutional relations. In Mexico she worked for companies such as LALA Guadalajara, MAVI de Occidente and ITESO. She currently serves as deputy director and head of advertising and social media for the digital magazine Drakma.

She is of Mexican origin. Her favorite sport is swimming. She learned how to crochet by watching videos on YouTube. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and riding a bicycle.

  

Hannah Schoenig

 Community Engagement Volunteer

Hannah Schoenig, the Community Engagement  Volunteer at Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, is currently a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. She is majoring in anthropology, minoring in Spanish and getting a certificate in Latin American Studies. After college, she wants to teach in Latin America and go to school to be an immigration lawyer. 

Outside of school, Hannah works as a barista and she is involved with the improve team at her university. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, exercising and spending time with friends and family. 

From this internship, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the experiences of the Hispanic population in Pittsburgh.