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Meet the Team!  

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Vicky Rivera

A native of Lynn, MA, Maria Victoria "Vicky" Rivera is the eldest daughter of Colombian and Puerto Rican immigrants. After graduating from St. Mary's High School, she went on to obtain her B.A. in American Civilization from Brown University in 1993 (thanks in large part to the support of the NSCC Upward Bound Program!). As a first generation college student she became very involved with numerous Latino and women's organizations on campus, which instilled in her a desire to help other young people attain their college degrees. After graduation, Vicky stayed at Brown for several years, first working as an Assistant Director of Admissions and later as a Research Assistant in the Education Department. Since then, she has been dedicated to college counseling and has been the Director and Associate Director of College Counseling in various high schools in San Francisco, Miami, Boston and Cambridge. Vicky returned to her roots at the end of 2011 to become the Founding Director of College & Career Counseling at Boston Green Academy. In 2017, she transitioned to her current role as the Director of College & Career Counseling at the Community Charter School of Cambridge. Since her undergraduate years, she has been an active Hermana of Sigma Lambda Upsilon / Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc., with whom she has dedicated many hours giving back to the Latino community. She is one of the founders of the Brown University Latino Alumni Committee, with whom she served as VP of Programs and Boston Representative. Upon returning to her home state, Vicky became involved with the Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Fund, following in the legacy of her mother, Carmen Rivera, one of the original board members, and her sister, Sandra Rivera, who is a past president. She is deeply committed to giving back to the community that raised her. Since joining the LHSF Board, Vicky has served as the facilitator of the Scholarship Selection Committee as well as Vice President for several years. She is honored to serve as President as of October 2022. Vicky resides in Lynn with her husband Fernando and their two children.

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Jazmine Ramirez

Jazmine Ramirez is the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants and a proud graduate of the Lynn Public School system. During her senior year, she was admitted to Harvard University and became a first-generation college graduate in her family. Following college, Jazmine moved to Chicago to pursue her Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Since then, Jazmine has utilized her career in community investments to help allocate much-needed resources to those communities we call home. Jazmine serves on multiple nonprofit boards. However, serving on the Board of Directors for the Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Fund, in particular, is a humbling opportunity to give back to her community. Lynn students are full of potential and she is excited about the prospect of being a contributor on their journey to achieving their educational aspirations. In her free time, Jazmine serves as a college interviewer for her alma mater.


Paul Coombs

Paul Coombs, a lifelong resident of Lynn, has been involved in local political and civic activities since his youth. Volunteering for political candidates since his teenage years, he has continued to be politically involved in environmental and social justice issues through several local organizations. Graduating from Nasson College in Springvale Maine with a B.S. In Biology, Paul soon joined the staff of the Greenpeace Boston office and later began working for the local chapter of the Clean Water Project. During these years he was involved as a fundraiser and campaigner while assuming progressive management roles. From 1991 until 2001, Paul worked for the School for Field Studies in Beverly, MA as a manager specializing in Information Technology. For the past seventeen years, Paul has been employed as a tax professional and currently works as a self- employed Tax Specialist. In recent years he has joined local organizations as a volunteer and serves as a Board Member and Officer in the following organizations: Goldfish Pond Association, President, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, Treasurer, Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Treasurer, and the New Lynn Coalition, Treasurer.


Alby Mendez

Alby Mendez is a first generation Guatemalan who grew up in Lynn, MA. A product of the Lynn Public Schools, she went on to study Communications and has been a professional fundraiser for over 13 years. She is passionate about how storytelling and target messaging can cause an entire movement. ​ Currently fundraising for the premiere independent biomedical research institute in the US, Alby spends her days learning about medical discoveries and innovations by some of the most brilliant minds in the world. She is very excited to help in seeding the next generation of biomedical research into the next Bio-century. Being a part of the Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Board is especially important because she believes these students deserve a seat at tables like these. ​ When Alby isn’t in the office, she can be found with her husband doting on their children or arduously working on her non-existing cooking abilities while subjecting her parents and siblings to her culinary creations.


Mabelyn Lopez

After becoming a licensed insurance agent in 1997, Mabelyn Lopez spent the next 2 decades perfecting her skills and educating her clients on the benefits of protecting themselves and their assets through effective insurance plans. Believing that insurance shouldn’t be confusing or intimidating, she established 4 Insurance, LLC in 2021, a certified minority and woman owned independent Insurance Agency. Seeing a large disconnect between the local Hispanic community members and the insurance sector as a whole was her motivation to specialize in this area. The language barrier coupled with the lack of general awareness of the insurance world is a huge obstacle for the Hispanic community. Not only do they have no one to ask, they don't know what to ask. 4 Insurance caters to their specific needs and guides them through the process, ensuring they understand each step taken. 4 Insurance is an award winning insurance agency offering service in multiple languages, they provide personal, business and industry specific insurance services that include home, auto, renters, general and professional liability, directors & officers and workers compensation products. From health care providers to truckers to restaurants to non-profit organizations, 4 Insurance has the experience and the knowledge needed to get the best deal for their clients. Mabelyn is the proud recipient of the All Star Agent Award for MAIA’s Big Event 2022 (Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents) and the Business Woman of the year from the North Shore Latino Business Association. She has spoken at Suffolk University as a panelist for Learning to Lead from Latinx Business Owners, Panelist for iPROMOTEu – The Buyer's Perspective: Unleashing Insights for Business Growth, candidate for the North Shore LEADS Fellowship, had an NASE (National Association for the Self Employed) article published in June, 2022, a panelist in the SCORE Northeast Massachusetts Womens Business Summit (9/20/2023), and most recently 1 of the recipient in 100 honorees of the ALX100 Local Latinx Leaders. Today, Mabelyn sits on the Boards of the Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Celebrate Literacy Day, Cultura Latina Dance Academy, Inc., the Margarita Muñiz Academy, a mentor for eForAll, a former board member of the North Shore Latino Business Association and she continues to be a trusted industry and community influencer, leader, speaker, mentor, resource and advisor.

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Jennifer Oquendo Suarez

A Lynn, MA resident since childhood, Jennifer Oquendo Suarez is a first-generation college graduate of Puerto Rican descent. After graduating from Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, she went on to obtain her BFA in Design from UMass Lowell (thanks in large part to the support of both need and merit-based scholarships.) Jennifer has been working in the financial services field in multiple marketing professional roles for the past 15 years. She hopes to bring to the LHSF Board her passion for equity, diversity, inclusivity, and volunteerism. She is a member of the Latin American Professional Group and State Street Foundation’s Corporate Citizen Council both ERGs whose missions are to create a more inclusive environment for its workforce and give back to its local communities. Jennifer volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Lynn, a local non-profit whose mission is to inspire the local youth who need them the most. In 2022, she was involved with skills-based volunteering with Common Impact, a nationally focused non-profit strategy consulting firm. Through this engagement program, she partnered with Dignity Matters, a local non-profit, and fellow State Street colleagues in creating their first Annual Report. Working within the wealth management space and seeing firsthand the doors that access to higher education can open, she hopes to help provide financial literacy opportunities and preparation support to Latino youth to accomplish the dream of post-secondary education and give back to her community in a full-circle capacity. In late 2023, she became an ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America) member with goals of networking and professional leadership development opportunities. In her free time, Jennifer is a weekend warrior searching for fun kid’s activities to keep her two daughters busy with and loves vacationing and experiencing new cultures.


Brenda Peña

Brenda Peña is a first-generation graduate of Puerto Rican descent and has been a resident of the community of Lynn for the past 9-years. She is an esteemed PK-12 District Administrator for Chelsea Public Schools, renowned for her expertise in Mental Health, SEL (Social Emotional Learning), and Specialized Student Supports. With a career that commenced in 2006 at Waltham Public Schools, Brenda excelled as a school adjustment counselor, delivering vital social-emotional support to students for eight years. Her unwavering dedication involved assisting students with transitions, emotional struggles, peer interpersonal difficulties, and academic stressors. Brenda's primary focus was on addressing the social-emotional needs of all students while also connecting them with essential community resources. In 2014, Brenda embarked on her first leadership role as the Head of Family and Community Engagement/Dean of Students at Bentley Academy in Salem, Massachusetts. In this capacity, she collaborated closely with internal and external stakeholders to strategize, implement, and monitor the school's improvement and turnaround initiatives. Brenda played a pivotal role as one of the founding members of Bentley Academy, contributing significantly to the school's attainment of Level 1 status. Recognized for her leadership qualities, Brenda assumed the position of Associate Principal in the Waltham Public School District in 2017, becoming the first Latinx Administrator. Her remarkable journey continued in 2021 when she shattered a 53-year record by becoming the Principal of Waltham High School, making history as the first Latina and Woman to hold this esteemed position. Brenda's educational accomplishments include holding a Bachelor of Social Work from Wheelock College and a Master's in Social Work from Boston College. Additionally, she has pursued coursework in Educational Leadership through the University of New England. Brenda's commitment to professional growth is reflected in her extensive certifications and licenses, encompassing roles such as Attendance Officer, School Adjustment Counseling, Principal Pk-12, Director of Pupil Personnel, Director of School Counseling, and Superintendent. In addition to her administrative roles, Brenda actively serves on multiple boards, amplifying her dedication to enhancing the well-being of others. Currently, she holds positions on the Healthy Families Advisory Board, Massachusetts Association of Mental Health Advisory Council, and the National Advisory Board for Alongside. Furthermore, Brenda's expertise extends beyond her administrative responsibilities. She also serves as a consultant, providing invaluable support to organizations in the areas of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), Mediation Programming, and SEL (Social Emotional Learning), MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports). Brenda's contributions to education are further exemplified by her role in facilitating workshops and delivering Professional Development sessions for the Massachusetts Department of Education. Her expertise in supporting student mental health, SEL, MTSS, and her commitment to fostering inclusive environments have positively influenced numerous educators and students across the state. Brenda Peña's journey in the field of education, her unwavering dedication to student well-being, and her influential leadership make her an invaluable asset in advancing educational excellence and fostering inclusive communities.

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Carlos Quintanilla

Carlos is a financial services professional with experience in different fields such as, operations management, banking, trust operations and non-profit. He’s also a Certified Career Coach and a Northeastern University alum. Carlos is originally from El Salvador, whose family migrated to the United States in search of the so called “American Dream”. He is a big advocate for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and works constantly with underrepresented communities and BIPOC population to create career development and personal empowerment opportunities. Currently, Carlos serves as a founding council member for alumni engagement for Latinos for Education, a non-profit organization focusing on creating a more equitable education system for students and education professionals. Most recently Carlos served as the Director of Student Affairs for ALPFA Boston where he focuses on creating career development and networking opportunities for Latinx student in the area and assists all the student chapters with their business plan and strategy. He also served as the Director of Coaching and Mentoring and co-founded a PRIDE community at the organization. In addition, Carlos is a co-founder and co-host of “Hablando Queer”, a podcast exploring what is like to be a queer Latinx person navigating life. Carlos, personal mission is to create a more equitable space for those who need it the most by providing career development, personal empowerment and financial literacy opportunities.


Chris Salamanis-Rivera

A resident of Lynn Chris is Vice President of Learning and Development for Boston based Beacon Communities and a 33-year veteran of the property management industry. Using her extensive experience, Chris creates, promotes, and delivers training solutions that enhance teams across every organizational level. Chris is passionate about fostering an interactive and enjoyable business environment that supports learning. Over the past 23 years Chris has provided education within the property management field. While at Beacon Communities Chris has delivered successful programs in management development, team building, diversity, communications, customer service, sales, and a host of other topics. Through her development and engaging execution of training courses, she helped turn the vision of “Beacon University” into a reality for her company. Chris serves on the Massachusetts Apartment Association, IREM – Institute of Real Estate Management and NEAHMA – New England Affordable Housing Association. She holds her CALP, CAM, ARM and CPM designations. Chris is dedicated not only to education but also to the mission of providing quality affordable housing and her community.


Gissell Vargas

Board Member

Born to Dominican parents, Gissell moved to Lynn when she was in elementary school and grew up attending Lynn public and parochial schools. As a first generation to college student, she participated in the North Shore Community College Upward Bound Program while in high school. Gissell went on to obtain her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Rhode Island College where she was active with the Latin American Student Organization. Upon graduation, she returned to Lynn and began her career in the Lynn Public Schools as a bilingual elementary school teacher. She continued her education at Salem State College where she received her Masters in Teaching ESL. Over the years, Gissell dedicated her career to working with the youth of Lynn as a teacher in LPS as well as at KIPP. Throughout that time she also taught ESL to adults in the evenings. Gissell previously served on the Lynn Hispanic Scholarship Fund Board and helped with fundraising there as well as at St. Joseph’s Parish where she also taught CCD. Gissell is excited to rejoin the LHSF Board of Directors as of November 2022. Gissell resides in Lynn and is a proud mom of four children who have attended/are currently attending Lynn Public Schools and KIPP. She has always been involved in the PTO and has been active as a Parent Leader with KIPP’s Family and KIPPsters Together (FAKT) Family Council.

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