Cecilia M. Gastón began her tenure as Executive Director of VIP in June 2008. She has a strong track record of service to disenfranchised groups, especially in the Latina community. In 1998, she was recognized as one of El Diario/La Prensa’s Outstanding Women of the Year for her commitment to social justice and women’s health issues. Prior to heading VIP, she worked at Inwood House, one of New York City's leading teen pregnancy prevention programs. She has also served as program director of multiple supportive housing programs serving people living with HIV/AIDS.
Born in Havana, Cuba to a Cuban father and Mexican mother, she traveled often between the two countries. In 1961, she immigrated with her family to the United States. This uniquely bicultural and multinational background, coupled with her family’s high standard for academics and social awareness, has given her a distinct perspective in her work with Latino and disenfranchised communities.
Ms. Gastón earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Baruch College. Currently, she is a member of the NYC Mayor’s Office Commission on Gender Equity, founding member of the Gender Justice Task Force and member of the Mayor’s Office Task Force on Domestic Violence.
Margarita Guzmán attended Georgetown University where she majored in English and minored in Women’s Studies. She obtained her law degree from George Washington University School of Law where she participated in the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, representing victims/survivors of domestic violence obtaining orders of protection from the DV Court in Washington, D.C. Upon graduating from law school, Margarita was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to create a legal clinic for indigent Spanish-speaking mental health consumers in New York City. After this, Margarita went on to serve the primarily Latina/o immigrant population of Washington Heights/Inwood at the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC). At NMIC, Margarita defended tenants against evictions and represented survivors of domestic violence in family court and housing proceedings as well as filing DV-based immigration petitions. She then became Program Director at Day One, where she oversaw the Community Education, Peer Leadership, Social and Legal Services programs offered for teen and young adult survivors of intimate partner violence. She joined the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence in October 2013 as the Deputy Director of the Bronx Family Justice Center and became Executive Director in January 2015. She was selected as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Rising Stars of 2016 by the Hispanic Coalition of New York.
María Eugenia Mondéjar is a filmmaker, photographer and graphic designer. She studied Classical Languages and Literature (Latin and Greek) at the University of Los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela. María Eugenia worked for years in the University’s film department, specifically in the animation, art direction, set design, costume, and production of various short, medium and feature length films. She also coordinated the Department of Production of the International School of Film and Television (EICTV) in San Antonio de Los Baños, Cuba. Upon moving to New York City, María Eugenia brought her skills and expertise to Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. where she served as the right hand to the President for many years, leading the agency’s strategic communication efforts. María Eugenia brings the richness of her experiences and knowledge to VIP where she leads by example and continually amazes her colleagues with the power of graphic design.
Lillian Robles has been the Director of Development at Violence Intervention Program Inc. since 2010. Prior to coming to VIP, Ms. Robles served as Deputy Executive Director at several non-profit organizations serving some of the most disenfranchised communities. She also served as Director of Development and Communications at STRIVE International, a workforce development organization. Ms. Robles has been instrumental in growing VIP’s operating budget from $2M to nearly $5M in seven years. Under her stewardship, the Development Department has expanded VIP’s funding sources, thus expanding VIP’s programming capacity to offer services to more than 20,000 individuals annually.
Ms. Robles was born and raised in East Harlem by parents of Puerto Rican descent. She credits her upbringing in El Barrio for enlightening her to the needs and assets of the New York City Latino community. An active participant in the local community, Ms. Robles has served as Board member to local community-based organizations, task forces, and organizing committees such as the Latino Leadership Institute, Casabe Houses, the Mount Sinai Hospital Community Board, the Sunshine Drug Prevention Project, East Harlem Labor Task Force, Project Independence of Queens, and the Child Care, Substance Abuse and Cultural Industry Working Committees of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone prior to the development of UMEZDC.
Ms. Robles received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and she holds a Master of Science in City and Regional Planning from the Pratt Institute.
Kelly Guajardo came to Violence Intervention Program with years of experience as an advocate for families, youth, and individuals experiencing various and often intersecting forms of violence. She has experience in direct service and advocacy work with families and individuals experiencing a range of issues from homelessness to sexual assault. She has worked as an organizer and program manager for community-based work with low to no-income undocumented Latinx families and individuals. Over the years, Kelly has built up her movement-building skills from group facilitation to coalition building to grant writing to program management, development and social media organizing. She is committed to end gender-based oppression.
Ms. Guajardo received her Bachelor’s degree in Women and Gender Studies where she began to develop the feminist and intersectional analysis she brings to her work today. Additionally, she has been trained and certified as a Rape Crisis Counselor through Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) and supported LGBTQ survivors indirectly as a board member of Community United Against Violence (CUAV), the nation’s oldest anti-violence program for LGBTQ people.
Lorena Kourousias is the Director of Economic Justice and Survival Programs at The Violence Intervention Program. Lorena is also a current Immigrant Civic Leadership Program fellow. She has 20 years of experience in the fields of women and gender issues, domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual assault, long-term counseling, crisis intervention, individual and group therapy. She had recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work from Hunter College. As many immigrant professionals, Lorena represents the struggle and perseverance that comes with the immigration process and the various barriers that professional immigrants have to face in the United States in the search of the American Dream. Regardless of her advanced education (she holds two Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology), Lorena had to overcome a long process of revalidating her credential from Mexico, learning a new language, assimilating a new culture, overcome the physiological trauma that comes with the immigration process of re-starting her professional career.
She has a strong track record of serving underprivileged communities and a deep knowledge and understanding of challenges relating to immigration status, culture, customs, class, and race. She is an active Leadership member of The Monument Quilt, a national community art project by FORCE, that create and demand public space to heal and to resist a single narrative about sexual violence by telling the stories of survivors experiencing intersecting oppression. Through Lorena’s work, the voices of Latinx survivors became an essential part of the Monument Quilt.
Lorena has devoted her work to provide services to people with different mental health conditions at Psychiatric Hospitals, Prisons, Federal and Juvenile Detention Centers, as well as government and non-profit organizations. Most recently, in March 2014, she was invited to speak on panels at international conferences in Thailand and India focusing on leadership and Women's Empowerment. In May 2014, she was honored with four community service awards by Queens Borough President, Elmhurst Hospital and New York City Council member.