Our Staff

Casa San Jose has a 11 member staff, who along with two volunteers provide service coordination, community support, and administrative tasks. We also have the support of 110 active volunteers and numerous interns who provide everything from reporting, correspondence, family support, youth programming, and clerical assistance.

You can reach all staff by calling 412-343-3111 or by clicking on an individual name to email the person.

Staff Listing

Executive Director                       

Monica Ruiz-Caraballo

Monica Ruiz-Caraballo is the Executive Director at Casa San José. Mónica has been working with Casa since 2014 when she started as an intern, then moved to service coordinator and then community organizer. Prior to that, she worked for Catholic Charities as a case manager. She was born in Cleveland Ohio and has Latino roots from Guatemala and Puerto Rico, where her mom and her dad are originally from. Mónica holds a master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Psychology.

Mónica is 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, children and youth. In addition, she partners with political, labor, religious, and law enforcement leadership to make Pittsburgh stronger and more welcoming to all.

Mónica recently received the 2019 Women of Influence Award, Pittsburgh Business Times and the 2019 César Chávez Community Heroes Award. She was also awarded with the 2018 New Person of the Year, from Thomas Merton Center and the 2018 Rising Star, from the University of Pittsburgh by the School of Social Work. She is currently a fellow of Lead Now Pittsburgh, a transformational leadership program for the civic sector.

Director of Civic Engagement

Sr. Janice Vanderneck

Sister Janice is the Founding Director of Casa San José. She is a Catholic religious sister with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, and she 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.

Sister Janice is a member of the Advisory Council on Immigrants and Internationals for the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County, and she is currently a member of the Welcoming Pittsburgh Steering Committee.

Sister Janice has received numerous awards for her extraordinary service. They include: the Michael McGrady Award for Service at the Art Rooney Awards Dinner in 2017, the OHTLI Award for 2017 given by the Secretariat of the Mexican Government for service to the Mexican community in the US, and the 2016 El Sol Award from the Hispanic Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny Bar Association.

Finance and Development Director

Sr. Karen Stoila

Sister Karen Stoila is the Director of Finance and Development at Casa San José. Her responsibilities include setting up and using Quickbooks online and preparing Casa for its first audit. She will manage all employee-related concerns.

Sister Karen taught every level of high school math and science for 19 years at St. Joseph High School in Natrona, PA, Quigley High School in Baden, PA, and St. Pius V High School in Bronx, NY. She then worked with Sister Janice in Miami, Florida at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School as the development director and business administrator. In 1996, Sister Karen was called back to the Motherhouse to serve in the Development Office and in 1999 was appointed Director of Development for the Sisters of St. Joseph, a position she held until 2017.

Sister Karen is looking forward to sharing her gifts and talents with Casa San José, to assist its wonderful staff to carry out their mission of providing resources and services for Latino immigrants in Pittsburgh and counties beyond. Sister Karen and Sister Janice are longtime friends, having entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on the same day 52 years ago, and having shared many joys and sorrows in life. After a happy career in teaching and many wonderful years building up resources to care for the life and mission of the Sisters, especially the retired Sisters, Sister Karen is following God’s call to now serve at Casa San José.

Volunteer Coordinator  

Sr. Valerie Zottola

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. She believes that 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 has 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.

Assistant Volunteer Coordinator

Roye Werner

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, and because she believes Latino and other immigrants are being brutally victimized, also, because she loves Latin American culture, and because she came from immigrants herself, as did so many Americans.

Office Administrator

Jennifer Aguilar

Jennifer Aguilar is the Office Administrator at Casa San Jose. Jennifer is from Puerto Rico Island and arrived to Pittsburgh in 2017. She holds an Associated degree in Nursing Science and has three children and three grand children whom she loves deeply. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Jennifer worked at a health care facility for seniors.

Previous to working at Casa, Jennifer worked at Maya Organization helping Latino women during their pregnancy. Since she arrived to the steel city she felt inclined to working to Latino communities and giving her support to those in need. She loves reading and listening to music.

Emergency Case Worker

Elia Paris

Elia Paris, is our newly appointed Emergency Case Worker. Elia joined Casa San Jose in November 2019 as a volunteer and then became a staff member in March 2020. She was attracted to Casa by its mission and the services it provides to the Hispanic Community.  As a person who was raised in the Dominican Republic, supporting the Latin community in her place of residency was a natural thing for her to explore. The success of Casa San Jose, driven by its committed staff, immediately caught her attention and interest when she moved to Pittsburgh in June 2019. It then became clear for her that she should be part of this organization to improve the lives of the Latin community. 

Throughout her adult life, Elia worked in social works in a number of countries in Europe, the Middle east and North America. Recently, she was the vice president of the parish committee of the Saint Nicholas Church, in Wilkes Barre, PA and a very active member of the Hispanic community of Saint Nicholas.  

Rooted in her multicultural background, she wants to continue to meet people from all over the world and learn from their rich cultures and traditions.  Her most immediate goal is to extend her support to those who have been and continue to be less fortunate.  Her long term goal is to contribute to establishing a more just society where harmony and prosperity for all living in this blessed country.  

Elia holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Public Relations from the George Mason University.

“As we come together in solidarity to help those in greater need and to fight the effects of the pandemic, the work we do at Casa San Jose is even more critical. I am honored to be part of the organization’s mission and efforts in support of our community members” – Says Elia.

Immigrant Services And Connections (ISAC) Service Coordinator

Anna Clark

Anna Clark first started working at Casa San Jose as an intern, before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master’s in Social Work and a concentration in Community Organizing and Social Action. She loves the mission and community of Casa San Jose and came back to work here as an ISAC Service Coordinator. 

Anna went to Virginia Tech where she got a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with minors in Spanish and Social Change. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2015 to work for a small nonprofit with a focus on homeless outreach and fell in love with the city and the people here. Anna is passionate about social change and fighting inequality and believes that strong communities are important resources to create change. 

Immigrant Services And Connections (ISAC) Bilingual Navigator

Monique Herrera

Monique Herrera, from Acapulco, Mexico, is our newly appointed Casa San Jose’s Bilingual Navigator. Prior to working at Casa San Jose, Monique worked at the Holy Family Institute with unaccompanied minors for two and half years.

Monique is a current Dreamer who migrated along with her mother and brother to the U.S. when she was 4 years old. As she grew up, she saw her family needing help with the language barrier. As a result, she always helped her parents with translating. That is where her passion comes in for her helping the Latinx community and her position as a Bilingual Navigator at Casa San Jose.

Emergency Response Organizer

Laura Perkins

Laura Perkins is Casa San Jose’s Emergency Response Organizer. In addition to immediately responding to ICE detentions and their consequences, she accompanies people to ICE check-ins, coordinates Casa San Jose’s PA is Ready! community engagement, and generally responds to many of our urgent organizing needs.

Laura came to Casa San Jose after nonprofit human rights work in Honduras and Nicaragua, throughout two political crises. Before that, she ran an ESL program in Washington, DC, where she obtained her B.A. in International Relations and interned at various nonprofits. Laura is a native of the mighty hills of Pittsburgh, and she feels a personal obligation to put her international crisis experience to work by actively challenging the status quo and responding to the injustices her neighbors suffer.

Community Organizer

Veronica Lozada

Verónica Lozada is Casa San Jose’s Community Organizer. Verónica 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 she has 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 cultural sensitivity for our immigrant families.

Community Organizer

Benjamin Gutschow

Benjamin Gutschow is our newly appointed  Community Organizer on Social and Civic Engagement. Originally born in Guatemala, Ben came to the U.S. as a child through adoption, and now lives in Pittsburgh. He is a high school senior who has spent the last few years as a youth-activist focused on environmental, social, and racial injustice. 

Founding the first Latinx Student Union at his school, Ben is dedicated to spreading awareness about the struggles and strengths within the Latino community. He travelled with fellow youth members of Casa to speak at the Racial Justice Summit, and even to Washington D.C. to advocate for human rights to members of the United Nation. 

He has organized various strikes and protests around Pittsburgh, like the Global Climate Strike in September of 2019, and has spoken at many events against discrimination and injustice. He has worked with Casa throughout his time in high school, and is excited to join the staff.

Youth Service Director

Diana Escobar-Rivera

Diana Escobar-Rivera is our newly appointed Youth Service Director. She is from Colombia, where she worked for more than 10 years at different governmental agencies. Diana has experience on education, women’s rights, and  has worked with victims of Colombian armed conflict. In her home country she worked as an advisor for Bogota’s Secretary of Women, Bogota’s High Counselorship for Victims’ Human Rights, Peace and Reconciliation, and Bogota’s Secretary of Education. Likewise, she worked for the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for the National Ministry of Education. In the latter, she was involved in important projects such as developing a program to address education gaps for children experiencing hospitalization as a result of cancer diagnosis. She was also engaged in policy making projects to ensure the right to education to all children in the country. 

Diana moved to Pittsburgh for family reasons. During her time here, she has learned a lot about education and vulnerable communities in this region of the US. Diana hopes she can make important contributions to our community through her work at Casa San Jose. She believes that a better society will only be possible if we change the way we think and get involved in social justice issues. For her, education is at the basis of cultural change and it is a significant way to transform lives.

Youth Community Outreach Coordinator 

José María Ochoa

José María Ochoa is our Youth Program Coordinator. He was born in Georgia, moved to Mexico at a very young age, was raised there for most of his life, and then came back to the U.S. 6 years ago. Understanding the current situation of our people, he started to get involved with the Latino community in Pittsburgh last year though music, culture and protesting. He then became involved in a musical education program with youth from different oppressed backgrounds, attended a course about youth empowerment and organization from the “SOUL” school of movement and unity.

At Casa, Jose runs the Summer Camps for the East Liberty and Beechview area. He also coordinates our programs for children Bridges to the Future – “Puentes Hacía el Futuro”, and “Jóvenes con Propósito” for the youths at Brashear High School where he was volunteering before. Jose has a great sense of humor which keeps everyone at Casa in a happy frame of mind. His gentle spirit is good for the children and youth, as well as his desire to help them balance their Latino heritage with the American culture. Jose hopes to pursue a degree in Psychology in the future.

Communications Specialist

Andrea M. Padilla Herrera

Andrea Padilla is our newly appointed Communications Specialist. She was born in Quito, Ecuador and she holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Ohio University. Andrea has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.  Before joining Casa San Jose, Andrea gained experience in Communications by working as an intern for the Ecuador-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

Driven by her passion to support marginalized communities, she worked as a Program Assistant at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in Quito, which gave her professional experience in the field of migration and humanitarianism. Andrea is part of a family of 5 members and enjoys helping others with what she has learned throughout the years. She is very excited to join Casa San Jose and meet the amazing Latinx community living in Pittsburgh.

East Liberty Office Coordinator

Ruth Farrell

Ruth Farrell currently volunteers with Casa San José. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, she was the Director of the Presbyterian Hunger Program for the national office of the Presbyterian Church, the USA in its work to complement congregational work to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes globally and locally.

Ruth worked internationally in Peru (10 years) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 years) with churches and non-profits organizations to address causes of poverty in communities through successful campaigns and sustainable projects.  She also directed a micro-enterprise program through the Jewish Family and Vocational Service in Louisville, Kentucky and worked in public policy for Senator Richard G. Lugar in Washington D.C.  She has an MBA in International Finance from George Washington University.   Ruth and her husband Hunter have 3 adult children.  Ruth is an avid soccer fan and hiker and she and her family lived in a shared house for 10 years as part of a commitment to intentional communal living.

Ambridge Office Coordinator

Milena Narkevic

Milena Narkevic is the recently-appointed coordinator for  Casa San José’s new office located at Good Samaritan Parish in Ambridge, Beaver County.  Milena was born and raised in Cuba, and has lived overseas in Central and South America, and Africa. She is the mother of four adult children, and brings to Casa San José a vibrant personality, a commitment to service, and a straightforward approach to getting things  done. 

She holds a bachelors degree in planning, and has worked as a development program planner in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and as a volunteer in social and economic development projects in Bolivia, El Salvador,  and Mozambique.  Milena also spent six years as a Spanish instructor at St. James  School in Sewickley, and performed substitute teaching for children attending  kindergarten through high school.  Over the years, Milena has also worked as a  private tutor of the Spanish language, and speaks conversational Portuguese as well. 

Her breadth of experience throughout Latin America and the Caribbean uniquely  positions her to understand the historic, social, and cultural contexts of many  Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. Her knowledge of the functioning of  schools and school districts make her a powerful advocate for children, especially  English-learners.  The fact that she herself was once an English language learner  along with her two oldest children affords her a deep understanding of many of the  primary assimilation issues facing refugee and immigrant families.