Hispanic Cultural Ambassadors

Although Hispanics suffer disproportionately from such diseases as diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers, they are underrepresented in clinical trials. The Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI) is collaborating with JUNTA for Progressive Action to help increase the participation of the local African American community in clinical trials.  The partnership helps ensure that clinical studies are designed to combat diseases that affect New Haven’s Hispanic community.

Representatives of JUNTA, New Haven’s oldest Latino community based non-profit organization, are serving as cultural ambassadors to Yale’s research programs, advising investigators how best to raise awareness of clinical research. YCCI provides cultural ambassadors with intensive training on clinical research topics so that they are able to answer your questions about participating in research. It is our hope that this collaboration will increase the participation of members of the Hispanic community in clinical research. Our goal is to bring medical advances to patients who need them.
Alicia Caraballo

Alicia Caraballo

Interim Executive Director of Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Alice (Alicia) Caraballo was born in New York City and moved to New Haven, CT where she attended St. Mary’s High School, Southern CT State University and received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University where she was active in Puerto Rican affairs.

She moved to Washington, DC and had the opportunity to work for Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a national housing revitalization program created at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. Alicia traveled throughout the country creating home ownership opportunities and revitalizing neighborhoods.  

Alicia joined the New Haven Public Schools as a School Social Worker and during her 26 years in the school district she served as Assistant and then Principal of Hill Central School, Special Education Supervisor, Career & Technical Education Department Supervisor and Director of Adult Education.  She retired in June, 2014 and a month later was appointed by Mayor Toni Harp to serve on the Board of Education. Her term ended December, 2016. 

Community service has also been very important to Alicia, she has served on the following Boards,  Hispanos Unidos contra SIDA (AIDS), Literacy Volunteers, Casa Otonal, Neighborhood Music School, Board of Education where she served as Vice Chair. Currently she serves on the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven Board, where she is Chairperson of the Development Committee and a member of the Finance Committee and a member of Read to Grow Board.  Alicia is currently the interim Executive Director for Junta for Progressive Action, an agency very near and dear to her heart.

Family is very important to Alicia, as she has suffered losing a brother Frankie and only child Justin to gun violence.  This family tragedy and her love for young people motivated her to use her voice to raise awareness of the issues plaguing our community and help put a stop to gun violence.

Natalia Xiomara

Natalia Xiomara

Director of Development,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Natalia Xiomara is originally from Panama City, Panama and she’s lived and worked in the U.S., Spain, and other countries in eastern and western Europe.  She graduated from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.  Following a career on Capital Hill, she worked in international law firms in Europe and the U.S. Afterwards, she joined Junta back in 2008 (as Economic Development & Employment Director) and subsequently left to start her own consulting practice.  

Natalia is back part time in the Development role, in addition to covering the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program and overseeing the collaboration Junta has with YCCI (Yale Center for Clinical Investigation) Ambassador Program.  She is bilingual (English and Spanish).

Cheila Serrano

Cheila Serrano

Program Director, Family Management,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Born and raised in New Haven, CT, Cheila Serrano is currently pursuing a career in social work. In 2004 she joined Junta for Progressive Action as a volunteer for the Energy Assistance program. Seven months later she joined the staff as program director for the Family Management program. As a well known and trusted member of the community, she enjoys helping people and making their goals a reality.

Ms. Serrano decided to become a Cultural Ambassador because she recognized the importance for members of her community to be involved in clinical trials and informed about research studies. She knew that although they were not familiar with clinical research, it would benefit them and their families. Today, she feels confident when informing her community about research studies.

“The partnership with YCCI and Junta has open doors for our community to be informed and involved on research studies that some didn’t even know existed,” she said. “Now they have the chance to be informed about studies that could help their families and generations to come.”

Fernando Faneyte

Fernando Faneyte

Executive Assistant and Economic Development Program Manager,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Fernando Faneyte is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He graduated from the Catholic University of Santo Domingo with a degree of business administration. He also studied for a Diploma in Management at Santo Domingo Technological University and a Masters in Business from the University Henriquez Pedro Urena.

In 2010, he joined the Junta team as a volunteer on the Board of Economic Development program. He joined the staff to work part time for the Family Management Program, assisting in the Energy Program, the Neighborhood Place and the Adult Education Program. Currently he serves as Executive Assistant and Economic Development Program Manager, assisting the community by recruiting its members for jobs and helping them achieve their economic goals.

Mr. Faneyte became a Cultural Ambassador because he feels Junta is a channel to provide information that will be clear and easy to understand to those who need it. His participation in the program allows him to keep the Hispanic community apprised of Yale studies and motivate them to participate.

Kattia Mendez

Kattia Mendez

Instructor,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Kattia Mendez is originally from Cienfuegos, Cuba. She became a Doctor of Medicine in 1996 in Cuba, receiving a specialist degree in general medicine in 2003. She continued to work in medicine until her immigration to the United States in 2008.

In 2008, Ms. Mendez received certification from RMA. She volunteered at the Hospital of Saint Raphael and Yale-New Haven Hospital from 2009 to 2011 and has also worked as a community educator and patient coordinator for Kool Smiles Company. In 2011, she became an instructor at Junta and a medical interpreter at Xtra Mile Interpreting. She also works in New Haven adult education as a Spanish GED teacher in reading, writing, math and science.

Ms. Mendez joined YCCI as a Cultural Ambassador because she enjoys helping the Latino community face many barriers when they come to the U.S. She is committed to promoting health education in order to change the lifestyle of her community. The Cultural Ambassadors program has enabled her to expand her knowledge about risk factors that influence transmissible and non-transmissible diseases. She appreciates the importance of disease prevention and disseminating research to obtain better outcomes when monitoring and treating disease.

Agueda Ocasio

Agueda Ocasio

The Neighborhood Place, Onsite Coordinator  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Agueda Ocasio is originally from the Dominican Republic.  In 2007, she joined Junta for Progressive Action as the Program Coordinator of The Neighborhood Place.  Agueda earned her Associates degree in Education, from Gateway Community College.  

Currently, she is a paraprofessional at Christopher Columbus Academy.  Over the past years, she is able to refer students and their families to resources at Junta. She is fully bilingual (English and Spanish).