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Junta for Progressive Action

Junta for Progressive Action, Inc. is partnering with Yale to raise awareness in the Latino community regarding clinical research and its role in addressing health disparities. Founded in 1969, Junta is the oldest Latino, community based non-profit organization in New Haven, Connecticut. Its mission is to provide services, programs and advocacy that improve the social, political and economic conditions of the Latino community in Greater New Haven, while nurturing and promoting its cultural traditions as it builds bridges with other communities.

Junta empowers members of the Latino and low-income community to take control of their economic and social well being, while civically engaging in the community. It promotes a culture of community involvement and advocacy through its programs and initiatives, which include adult education, children's programs, cultural appreciation, economic development, family management, and immigrant rights. Community outreach activities include health workshops, health screenings and family literacy events.

Junta Cultural Ambassadors

Bruni Pizarro

Executive Director

Bruni Pizarro is the Executive Director at Junta for Progressive Action. Most recently, she was on the Environment & Climate Change Committee of the Transition Team for New Haven’s Mayor, Justin Elicker. Her scholarly work is at the intersection of race, class and the built environment. Bruni's recent scholarship and advocacy centers on climate-induced disaster, colonialism and the impact of forced migration on displaced Puerto Rican women. Her work explores how American urban inequality and the built environment shape the lived experience of Black & Latinx communities.

Bruni is a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where she received a Master's degree in Environmental Science. Prior to Yale, she worked as a Research Assistant on an ethnobotanical study at the New York Botanical Garden where she focused on the cultural knowledge of medicinal plants of Latinx and Caribbean communities in New York City. Through her research and advocacy, Bruni hopes to bring forth a racialized and class-based understanding of the downstream effects of disasters on oppressed communities of color.

Cheila Serrano

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

Junta 360, Director

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.”

Rosida Maldondo

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

Junta 360, Intake Specialist

Rosaida Maldonado was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico and moved to the United States in 1993 with her family. She finished high school in Las Delicias High School in Ponce, went to Catholic University of Puerto Rico for a year, and then moved to the Ponce Paramedical College where she completed an Associate’s Degree in Pharmacy.

After working several years with CVS Pharmacy, she switched to working with the community, serving as the Immigration Associate with Junta for Progressive Action. Currently she serves as an Intake Specialist.

Kattia Mendez

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

Junta Youth, TNP Coordinator

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

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

Representative for Junta

Agueda Ocasio is originally from the Dominican Republic, where she studied medicine at Universidad Tecnologica del Cibao (UTECI) of La Vega. 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.

Ms. Ocasio works for the New Haven Board of Education. She is an In Home Support provider and Mentor with the Department of Developmental Services and was previously a paraprofessional at Christopher Columbus Academy. In recent years, she has been working to refer students and their families to resources at Junta. She is fully bilingual (English and Spanish).

Sandra Trevino-Ranalli

Former Executive Director, Representative

Sandra Trevino-Ranalli, M.S.S.W., L.C.S.W., is Cultural Ambassador and Former Executive Director of Junta for Progressive Action, a role she held for over 10 years. Previously, she also served as Associate Director for Community Research at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI). She is a Licensed Certified Clinical Social Worker, specializing in mental disorders, treating individuals and their families since 2005.

In her role at YCCI, she developed and updated the strategic long-range plans for the Yale's community engagement activities to support clinical research at Yale to promote bi-directional collaborations between the clinical researchers and community partners. She oversaw YCCI's community outreach program which includes the YCCI cultural ambassadors program and new initiatives to expand this program throughout Connecticut, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and beyond. Her expertise in community engagement and support to underserved and underrepresented communities has been invaluable to YCCI’s Cultural Ambassador program, of which she was a co-founder.

Ms. Trevino-Ranalli also served as a New Haven Police Commissioner from 2007 to 2014 and continues to serve on several boards, including the Tow Youth Justice Initiative Advisory Council at the University of New Haven, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and Read to Grow. She was recently a recipient of The Key to the City of New Haven Award, by Mayor Toni Harp, for her invaluable work towards social justice. She was a recipient, in 2014, of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) One Woman Makes a Difference Award. In 2010, and again in 2017, she received the Yale University Seton Elm-Ivy Award, which recognizes those whose work strengthens collaboration and relationships between Yale and the New Haven community.