Meet Us

Our Board

Aimee Ferrer

Board Chair

Aimee Ferrer is a semi-native Miamian, who was born here, but grew up moving at regular intervals between New Jersey and Miami. She has a deep love for Miami as a city and believes it’s a better place when everyone who lives here is engaged, represented and involved. Aimee is a double Hoya, having attended Georgetown University for both college and law school. She’s now an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Miami Office of the Federal Public Defender. She believes deeply in ensuring that all members of our community are heard and have opportunities to excel. She’s lived all over, including stints in D.C., New York, Madrid, London, Quito, and Israel. She’s an avid adventurer who likes to explore the world as often as possible.

Rodney Jacobs

Vice Chair

Rodney is from Philadelphia, PA, and a son of an Army Veteran. His foundational cultural life experiences were formed by living throughout the nation as a kid, during his father’s time in service. Currently, he serves as the Assistant Director for the City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP). The CIP is department tasked with investigating abusive practices within the City of Miami Police Department. Rodney, is also a military intelligence first lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve. Rodney, is a graduate of Hiram College (OH), University of Dayton School of Law (OH). Rodney is currently working towards his Master’s in Public Administration and Public Health from the University Of Miami (FL). Rodney understands that the function of non-profits in Miami is necessary for a positive future. Rodney is committed to working and influencing aspects of public health, law, and government. In his free time, Rodney enjoys being a restaurateur with his wife Ramona, and playing tennis.

 

Gus Perez

Treasurer

Gustavo was raised in Miami, Fl, after emigrating from Venezuela in 1996. His engagement in local activism started with the passing of Miami Forever Bond, where he joined local groups in advocating for residents to have a real seat at the table and to be the overseers of how the bond and how its funds are being spent. That ended up in Gustavo becoming a member of the oversight board.

Passionate about local government, history, and civic engagement, Gustavo is a proud graduate of Miami-Dade Public Schools and Babson College.

James Lopez

Board Secretary

James Lopez is currently the Executive Director of Power U Center for Social Change. An Afro-Latino native of Rochester, New York, James began organizing through legal advocacy institutions. At the Western New York Law Center, he organized participants of their Consumer Debt Clinic, and advocated to change New York state policies around predatory lending, payday loans, and Community Reinvestment issues. Prior to coming to Power U, James was an organizer for VOICE-Buffalo, where he organized with residents and those formerly incarcerated in order to push policy on policing reform and reducing incarceration rates in the city. He was also part of Just Resisting (JR), which is a collective of organizers of color in the city of Buffalo committed to developing transformational organizing in the city of Buffalo.

James is an alum of Black Organizing for Leader and Dignity (BOLD) Directors Training and is committed to assisting in the development of Black and Brown working class leadership necessary to move forward a world void of racism, sexism, and economic exploitation.

 

Jude Bruno

Board Member

Jude Bruno is a Miami native who has been involved in the non-profit world for more than ten years. Having been among the first to have graduated from Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial High School, Jude is a born believer in the power of collective action. He is a former Student Advisor to the School Board, where he represented the interest of students for the nation’s fourth-largest school district, Miami-Dade County Public School.

Jude is nationally known within PTA/PTSA for his work at a past National PTA Youth Involvement Committee Chair, a position where he curated a Youth Leadership Summit for PTA members with National PTA staff and spearheaded efforts for PTAs’ on the Higher Education level. Jude works for United Teachers of Dade and advocates on behalf of public-school employees and directly supports union members in 34+ public schools and nearly 50+ central and regional offices. He is currently the Chair of Florida PTA’s Student Engagement Committee, serves on the National PTA Board of Directors and on the Legislative Committee.

 

Cherie Cancio

Board Member

A Miami native, Cherie’s focus on new ideas and passion around communities has led her to serve in several roles within the private, public, and non profit sector. Cherie has been recognized for changing the image of Miami Girls, and has remained active in her community by supporting and leading initiatives programs that serve as a catalyst for innovation and opportunity. Her parents’ American experience and her pursuit in exploring her personal history and cultural identity led her to become a founder and board member at the CubaOne Foundation, a Miami based-nonprofit seek to foster, encourage, and promote dialogue and cooperation between the United States and Cuba by offering a new generation of Cuban-Americans the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people and experience Cuba through high-impact, curated trips.

Cherie currently serves on the leadership staff at City Year Miami, one of the fastest growing nonprofits in the country with a national footprint and infrastructure focused on addressing the implementation gap in schools needed to keep students on track to high school graduation. You can find her sharing her passion to serve, connect, and spread the good word of cafecito, communidad, and cultura.

 

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Matt Haber

Board Member

Matt is an attorney whose practice focuses on the intersection between the environment and public utilities. He helped create CivicPro, a free web app that tracks public meetings and legislation across cities, to promote in-person engagement with local governments, through the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. As a former Miami Assistant City Attorney, Matt has advised the mayor and city commission, drafted municipal legislation, and counseled city boards at numerous public meetings where he noticed even three residents with informed comments made a difference. Before practicing law, Matt organized for the Obama campaign, including Iowa’s caucuses, and worked as an outreach coordinator for Nielsen, a market research firm.

Justin Pinn

Board Member

Justin Pinn believes that his mission and calling in life is to ensure excellent educational opportunities and equitable access for all children. After obtaining his undergraduate degree as a first-generation college student from Georgetown University, Pinn in May of 2013 relocated to Miami, Florida as a Teach for America Corps Member, teaching secondary science at Miami Central Senior High School. After leaving the classroom, Justin transitioned to Breakthrough Miami where he served as the Founding Director of two academies (STEM and Success). Currently, Justin works for Teach for America Miami-Dade as the Director, Strategic Initiatives. In this role, he has the privilege of mobilizing Teach for America’s alumni base towards leadership pathways that have been identified as critical to ensuring more educational equity and social change throughout Miami-Dade county. In his spare time, Justin loves to go fishing, travel, and hang out in Miami with friends and family.

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Monica Skoko Rodriguez

Board Member

Monica Skoko Rodriguez (she/they) is the Executive Director of the Commission for Women at Miami-Dade County, the immediate Past President of the League of Women Voters Miami-Dade, and on the boards of Engage Miami and Planned Parenthood South, East and North Florida. She is a native-Miamian, queer Latina, and a first generation college-graduate. They are dedicated to improving the health and prosperity of the community through policy, organizing, and advocacy. They are a trained writer from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a graduate of University of Miami’s nursing program, hold a Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, and working on her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Duke University.  She has worked as an Oncology nurse, a School Health nurse in Title 1 schools, and a nurse at Planned Parenthood as well as a Senior Health Educator at the FL Department of Health. They have a background in community organizing and have facilitated Catalyst Miami’s CLEAR program on climate resilience, advocated for myriad women’s rights issues at the state and national levels, conducted research on health disparities, worked on an immigration policy reform campaign, canvassed for Zika education, voter rights registration, candidates, and voter registration, and empowered youth leaders on topics ranging from sexual health to rebelling against Big Tobacco. Monica also co-created Miami Film Club to create a fun cultural space to discuss film and flex creative muscles. She lives downtown with too many houseplants, her partner Kristofer, and their dog Zeppelin.

Yami Rodriguez

Board Member

Yamile (Yami) Rodriguez is a Miami native and first-generation Cuban-American. A returned Peace Corps volunteer with a passion for travel, the arts, and community development. She served as a Youth in Development volunteer for two years, helping mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS in Botswana’s youth population. In returning home, she decided to give back to her community by working with under-resourced youth in Miami-Dade County. Her work ensured local students had access to excellent high-schools and experiential learning opportunities to help them become future leaders. She’s currently a communications professional at a local not-for-profit and earning her M.S. in Global Strategic Communications at FIU. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Nyah Project.

Our Staff
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Alexandra Contreras

Communications Associate

Alexandra (she/her) was born and raised in Miami, the occupied land of Tequesta, Seminole and Miccosukee indigenous nations. After spending four years in Washington, D.C. earning her B.A. in Psychology, and working in communications at various non-profit organizations, she yearned for the tropical foliage, coastal waters, and vibrant culture of her hometown, Miami. She is passionate about climate, housing, and racial justice and creating a more democratic Miami for all.

Maryan Firpo

Civics305 Education and Research Coordinator

As a Hialeah native, Maryan’s preferred language is Spanglish. Her immigrant parents made sure she had full exposure to the heart and blight of Miami and instilled a great love of reading and language. Since 2010, she has been an active enthusiast in Miami’s cultural scene through participation and leadership in community events. During this time, she also dedicated herself to practicing Applied Behavior Analysis as a Registered Behavior Technician, working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to help them understand, effectively communicate with, and be understood by the world around them. She hopes to merge all these passions and talents into something sustainable, inclusive, and progressive to benefit and empower people from marginalized communities.

Christopher Gonzalez

Finance Associate

Chris was born and raised in Allapattah, Florida. During his senior year at Coral Gables Senior High, he enrolled in an accounting applications course where he fell in love with accounting and it has been his passion ever since! After high school, he attended Miami Dade College at the Wolfson campus where he worked as a student ambassador at the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy (iCED). They served as a catalyst to propel his education, develop his professional skills, and gave him the tools to have a positive outlook on social change. Currently, Chris is an undergraduate student at Florida State University and plans to continue on in the Master of Accounting (MAcc) Graduate Program. Chris’s hobbies are playing video games, watching the Boston Celtics, eating food, and taking naps.

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Gracey Jean-bernard

Director of Voter Engagement

Gracey was born and raised in Haiti but calls Florida her adopted home. She has worked on various campaigns and is a community organizer at heart. From organizing on her now alma-mater UF to managing one of the largest statewide youth vote organizations in Florida, Gracey has made youth civic engagement her life’s work. She believes in the common notion that all politics is local and wants more young people to own their stake in local elections. She hopes her work at Engage Miami will help turn Florida into a state where equality and equity is the norm.

Briyana Joseph

Civic Leadership Programs Manager

Raised in Liberty City, Miami, Briyana has always wanted to create a better reality for the people in her community. While finding her voice to speak up about many issues, she realized that she can help others find theirs too. She has been actively serving marginalized populations and fighting for the rights of sexual minorities for a while, but honed her craft (of civic engagement) the past four years while attending Mount Holyoke College, where she graduated with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. She is passionate about economic justice, feminism, affordable healthcare and providing people the tools to speak up for themselves so that they can change the world around them.

Rebecca Pelham

Executive Director

rebecca@engage.miami

Rebecca (she/her) previously served as the Director of the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and as a leader of the Miami Climate Alliance Steering Committee and completed a M.S.Ed. in Education and Social Change from the University of Miami. Her passions for democracy, justice, sustainability, and learning have grounded her journey, and she is honored to work with the amazing team at Engage building power for Florida’s future.

Davier Rodriguez

Director of Learning and Leadership

Davier was born and raised in Miami. After being the first in his family to graduate high school and earn his B.A. from the University of Florida, he went on to serve with City Year San Antonio. In 2010, Davier moved to Phoenix, AZ where he earned his M.Ed. and M.P.A. while working at Arizona State University. During that time, he also became involved with the trans/queer undocumented rights movement, and he co-created DREAMzone, an award-winning ally training program for educators to better support undocumented students. In 2017, Davier embarked on a 3-year journey around the world, where he traveled and then taught high school History and Psychology in Shanghai, China. He is currently back home working for Engage Miami in order to elevate young people’s civic education and leadership. His life’s mission is to help create sustainable, thriving, and beloved communities.

Jessica Saint-fleur

Member Organizer

Jessica was born and raised in Little Haiti. She has always exhibited a spirit of activism in her community, as well as the world around her. A recent graduate of Pitzer College, where she obtained a BA in Human Biology as a first-generation student, Jessica began to explore her identity and find her voice. Through her passion directed towards healthcare reform and the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement, Jessica naturally emerged with an intersectional social justice approach in life, leading her to give back to her own community now with Engage Miami.

Yanelis Valdes

Director of Advocacy and Organizing

Yanelis (she/her) is a Miami local proudly representing Hialeah, where she grew up and most of her family still resides. She is passionate about social justice, racial equity, and elevating community self-determination by making civic participation accessible. She believes that collective action is essential to shaping the future all Miamians deserve. She first got involved with Engage Miami as a member in 2019, went on to join the inaugural class of YPPP fellows in 2020, and now leads issue advocacy work at the organization. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and Communications from Florida State University.

isa zuluaga

Director of Operations

isa@engage.miami

isa (they/she) is an intuitive harmonizer that has lived in miami, the occupied land of  tequesta, seminole and miccosukee indigenous nations, since 2001. They are a bi-racial colombian-peruvian that is committed to transforming existing material conditions for our collective liberation. At Engage, isa works to improve and implement systems and processes while strategizing and co-creating anti-racist HR commitments that are not just said, but also practiced. Offline, they make art, love many beings, and often daydream.