Casa San Jose is primarily run by over 200 volunteers who provide everything from reporting, correspondence, family support, youth programming, and clerical assistance. A small team of staff provides service coordination, community support, and administrative tasks. You can reach all staff at 412-343-3111.
Director of Civic Engagement
Sister Janice is the Founder and Director of Casa San José, which provides critical social services to Latino community members and organizes to promote integration, acceptance, and political change in support of immigrant communities. Sister Janice is a Catholic religious sister with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, a Catholic congregation of vowed women who are dedicated to loving and serving God and neighbor rooted in prayer, community living, and the Gospel. Sister Janice has worked in Latin America, educating and organizing community members to think critically about power structures, oppression and political engagement. In the U.S., Sister Janice worked for decades as a religion teacher and principal at Catholic elementary schools in the Pittsburgh region. She is a member of the Advisory Council on Immigrants and Internationals for the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County, collaborates with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement activities, is a supervisor for Immigrant Services and Connections, was part of the Latino Needs Assessment Process in Allegheny County, and is a member of the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition.
Sister Janice has received numerous awards for her extraordinary service. Among those are: the Community Service Award in 2014 and 2017 from the Turkish Cultural Center of Pittsburgh, 2014 Dignity & Respect Champion given by the Greater Pittsburgh Dignity & Respect Campaign Council, United Way’s 2016 Be There Award for supporting the region’s children, the 2016 El Sol Award from the Hispanic Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny Bar Association, the Michael McGrady Award for Service at the Art Rooney Awards Dinner in 2017, and the OHTLI Award for 2017 given by the Secretariat of the Mexican Government for service to the Mexican community in the US.
Service Coordinators & Bilingual Navigators:
Originally from Panama, Pilar holds a degree in Finance and Bank Administration from the University of Santa María La Antigua in Panama City, Panama. Prior to living in Pittsburgh, Pilar lived in Texas near the Mexican border where she owned a physical therapy clinic that provided rehabilitation services. It was here, while advocating for safe working environment for employees, that she had a first glimpse of Latino working conditions at the maquiladoras in Mexico, as well as in manufacturing companies like Alcoa and SAS. Pilar worked for a few years in Patient Access and also as a Spanish-English interpreter at St. Clair Hospital, where she continued her experience in the medical field. She had just started volunteering her services at Casa San José when she was offered a position as a Service Coordinator in 2017. She also works as a Spanish-English interpreter for PLAN (Pittsburgh Language Access Network) and as a Spanish linguist for Metlang. Pilar is a strong believer that knowledge of the English language lays the foundation for better communication and integration for Latinos into the Pittsburgh community.
Verónica Jenkins started with Casa San José as a volunteer in 2016 when she relocated to Pittsburgh from the Philadelphia area. With a degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, she brings great insight and skill resolving the daily emotional challenges for our families. Verónica joined our staff as an ISAC Services Coordinator for our immigrant families, with the primary role of providing referrals and coordination to social service opportunities that are imperative for long-term self-sufficiency. She developed a unique insight in working with high need communities in the West Chester and Kennett Square communities of Pennsylvania, managing public charter school operations and community service organizations. Verónica has also managed and developed food service programs developed a local gardening program, and has an expertise in volunteer management. Verónica’s years of experience in social services and family-based education enhance our organization with innovative solutions, personal insights, creative perspectives and high level of culturally sensitivity for our immigrant families.
Sister Valerie Zottola is our Volunteer Coordinator at Casa San José. Professionally, the majority of her adult life has been devoted to teaching and administering in elementary, high school and junior college education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Education; a Master’s degree in Counselor Education; a Post Graduate Certificate in Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction, along with numerous graduate credits in theology. She served 14 years as Principal of Holy Rosary Elementary School, and helped to create the Crossroads Foundation which supports impoverished elementary age students in their Catholic high school education. As a Sister of St. Joseph, she is dedicated to serving those most in need, which is what drew her to Casa San José. Casa San José is doing an incredible work that few if any in this area are addressing—supporting undocumented Latino immigrants. The love that the staff have for those whom they serve became clear to her when she first visited Casa San José—which is why she asked the leadership of the Congregation of St. Joseph to let her offer her services there.
Monica Ruiz is the Executive Director at Casa San José. Monica has been working with the Latino community for over 15 years. She started at Casa San José as the Service Coordinator for ISAC (Immigrant Services and Connections). Previously, Monica worked for Catholic Charities as a Chemical Dependency/Mental Health Case Manager with Latino youth. Prior to that, she worked as an Employment and Training Case Manager.
Monica has also been a powerful advocate for Latinos on legal, housing, development, and educational issues. She fights for those facing deportation proceedings and launches projects to assist women, youth and high school students. In addition, she partners with political, labor, religious, and law enforcement leadership to make Pittsburgh stronger and more welcoming to all. Monica earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Psychology, and a Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action. She has also been part of the Neighborworks Leadership Collaboratory and received training in Community Engagement and Community and Neighborhood Revitalization.
Youth Community Outreach Coordinator
Jeimy Ibarra was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and has been living in Pittsburgh for 18 years. She currently is the Youth Community Outreach Coordinator at Casa San José. Jeimy attends Carlow University where she studies psychology and criminal justice, and expects to graduate in May 2018 with Bachelor’s degrees in both areas of study. Jeimy started at Casa San José in 2015 as a Compass AmeriCorps volunteer and ran an afterschool program at Beechwood Elementary for grades K-2. At this time, she noticed the lack of services for Latino youth, and she herself grew up seeing how hard it was to maintain her own culture in the U.S. So Jeimy created and led Puentes Hacia el Futuro, a Saturday program for youth ages 7-14, to allow students to have a safe space while building community. In 2017, Jeimy created a second program, Jóvenes con Propósito, for high-school students, where she works to guide youth activists to become leaders in their communities and provide them with peer-based training that promotes youth power and community organizing.
Jeimy’s dedication to Latino youth has led to numerous awards. Café con Leche recognized Jeimy with the Fuerza award for making an impact in the Pittsburgh Latino Community. She received Catherine Graham Servant Leader Award from Carlow University for continuing the legacy of the Mercy Sisters on and off campus. And Jeimy was recently awarded the United Way’s “Be There Awards,” an award that recognizes adults going above and beyond to inspire, motivate, and be there for their students every day.
Interim Director of Youth Programs
Fernanda Ruiz has been the interim Director of Youth Programs during the summer of 2017 and 2018. Fernanda was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and has been living in Pittsburgh for 17 years. She is currently a senior at Penn State University where she majors in International Relations and Spanish. She expects to graduate December, 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in both areas of study and a minor in minor in Latin American Studies. She strives to make the Saturday Program and all other youth programs safe spaces for Latinx youth in Pittsburgh where they can feel accepted, empowered and connected with their peers and community.
After volunteering for a year, Kate Berson became a grant-writer for Casa San José in January 2017. She is now training to become a Department of Justice accredited representative in order to provide legal services to low-income immigrants. Kate also works as a Spanish-English interpreter for Global Wordsmiths and teaches first-year writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts and a BA in Latin American Studies and English from Tufts University. Various literary journals have published her short stories and collaborative poetry translations. Kate has worked for immigrant and refugee non-profits for over a decade, coordinating organizational capacity building workshops, leading a youth empowerment program, teaching ESOL and citizenship classes, and piloting a social services clinic. She supports immigrants because she believes that everyone, no matter where they’re from, deserves a level playing field.
Assistant Volunteer Coordinator
Roye Werner is the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, assisting Sister Valerie in recruiting, training, and processing volunteers and supporters, and is a volunteer herself. She also writes various communications for Casa San José including a bi-weekly email newsletter. She came from a 40-year career as a public-services librarian, primarily at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and lived for several years in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Her first professional job was as the Hispanic Services Librarian at Lawrence Public Library in 1977. She has volunteered for numerous political campaigns and service organizations and has a BA in literature from Mt. Holyoke College and a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin. She chose to work with Casa San José because of its passion, vitality, and effectiveness, because Latino and other immigrants are being brutally victimized, because she loves Latin American culture, and because she came from immigrants herself, as did so many Americans.