Community Strategy Team
The Department of Population Health works with grassroots leaders, connectors and advocates — each cornerstones of their communities — to rethink strategies for meeting the health needs of underserved people and neighborhoods across Austin and Central Texas. The Community Strategy Team builds meaningful relationships, especially in underrepresented communities most directly impacted by social and health inequities and disparities.
Ricardo Garay coordinates this work on behalf of the department.
Meet the Team
Stephanie Cerda is a purpose-driven and passionate leader with over 15 years of experience in education and nonprofit spaces advocating for more equitable systems in underserved communities across Central Texas. She currently serves as the executive director of the Del Valle Community Coalition, where she works to improve infrastructure and access to resources with and for Del Valle residents. She holds both a B.A. and M.Ed. from The University of Texas at Austin and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health. Her favorite pastime includes block walking with her husband, four kids and their Aussie pup.
Hilda Gutiérrez works as the people and operations director at Sustainable Food Center. Gutiérrez’s academic, professional and personal life’s work has been devoted to social change, deeply rooted in her lived experiences interfacing with various systems. In her professional career, Gutiérrez worked in the movement to end gender-based violence for a decade. She led statewide domestic violence prevention efforts by offering technical assistance, support and training to domestic violence programs across the state of Texas. Before that, she worked in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at a domestic violence shelter supporting mothers in transition and at the rape crisis center training youth on sexual violence prevention. At SFC, Gutiérrez worked on the food access team for the first part of her tenure. Under Gutiérrez’s leadership, the Food Access team served thousands of low-income individuals in Central Texas every year. She transitioned to the role of people and operations director in 2020, where she collaborates with other executive team members to meet strategic goals and steward human capital needs. Gutiérrez also works as a bridge between the executive team and the Justice, Equity Diversity and Inclusion working group to foster an organizational culture that operationalizes JEDI principles.
Gutiérrez is a native of the Rio Grande Valley and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her commitment to improving the livelihood of immigrants has led her to serve on immigrant rights boards and to become a trained interpreter. Gutiérrez is currently serving as board chair of Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, a worker self-directed nonprofit providing culturally resonant and quality prenatal and postnatal care to Black and Brown mothers in Travis County. Gutiérrez holds a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and a bachelor’s degree in feminist studies from Southwestern University. In her free time, she loves to go on nature walks and spend quality time with friends and family.
Rocky Lane (he/him/his) is a creative entrepreneur and advocate. He was raised — and currently lives — in Austin, Texas, and has spent his life devoted to community and cause. He is a Black man of trans experience, a wellness professional and a loving husband to his partner, Sarah, and together they have a media and consulting company called SwirlBaby LLC.
His resume includes wide-ranging experiences in health, wellness, entertainment and entrepreneurship. Rocky is a media creator, a creative consultant, an advocate and a community engagement and inclusion specialist. His industry experience ranges from certified nurse assistant to City of Austin paramedic to his current work as a wellness provider. His goal is to help create a thriving trans and gender diverse community.
As the co-principal investigator/Region 5 transgender co-lead, Lane leads the day-to-day ECHO operations of the Enhancement project, including coordination of ECHO sessions and deliverables. Lane is the former board chair for Transgender Education Network of Texas, a City of Austin public safety commissioner, a member of the HIV planning council and a grassroots community organizer with Austin Black Pride, Black Trans Leadership of Austin and UT’s pop health community strategy team.
Jeanette Monsalve is a full-spectrum caregiver and community navigator from South Austin, Texas. She is the co-founder of Yo Mama’s Catering Cooperative, Mamas of Color Rising and Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, or MSVW.
Monsalve’s life work has always centered on supporting people through loss and life. Her work in reproductive justice started with a focus on abortion access and loss support. It later blossomed to include birth, postpartum and newborn care. Her lived experience as a working-class mother of two, with multiple jobs to make ends meet was challenging and transformational, and it incited her to explore alternatives and join and build intentional communities. It also showed her the value and interdependence of care work in reproductive justice and her community, highlighting how underpaid and undervalued parenting and caretaking are in Texas
Monsalve hopes to bring a post-capitalist and anti-racist vision to the various community roles she embodies. She wants to continue to collaboratively think more about how we center Black, Indigenous and people of color leadership and voices; holistically care for our organizations and its membership simultaneously; practice accountability; and live laughter-filled lives. Within MSVW, she has been trained to support the organizational transformation and transition of a hierarchical/traditional non-profit structure to a horizontal organization that is worker self-directed. She continues in this role to support the ongoing adjustments, which has led her to pursue an organizational coaching certification and a Next Economy MBA to support MSVW’s vision of providing sustainable sources of income that are independent of grants and foundations.
When she is not thinking of her work with MSVW, she can be found at the fancy cheese section of HEB or the dress section of any thrift store. Monsalve has raised two amazing kids with the support of a radically loving and close-knit community of (chosen) family and friends, which has informed her life and community work.
An Austin native, Cherelle VanBrakle grew up with a sense of commitment and passion for her community and neighborhood. This comes through in her personal mission to make sure the community is “in the room where it happens” or has a seat or voice at the table where decisions are being made.
VanBrakle graduated from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin with a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology and biology. She went on to earn a Master of Education in exercise science at Texas State University. While there, she completed a study titled “The Effect of Environmental Factors and Socioeconomic Status on Body Mass Index and Physical Activity in a Sample of Adolescents from Austin, Texas.”
Currently, VanBrakle is the director of health promotions and community advocacy at People’s Community Clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Austin. In this position, she leads a team that focuses on upstream prevention work ranging from strengthening individual skills and knowledge to policy change. This work has also led to the creation of an integrated community health worker program. She has experience in research and education from serving as an adjunct professor of health and kinesiology at Austin Community College, where she assisted in the creation of a kinesiology curriculum geared toward high school students at the early college high schools in Austin.
Prior to People’s Community Clinic, VanBrakle was the coordinator of the pediatric obesity center at Dell Children’s Medical Center, where she oversaw community partnerships. She is also active in the community, serving as a commissioner on the African American Resource Advisory Commission for the City of Austin, a board member for Open Door Preschools and a member of the Community Strategy Team for Dell Medical School.
Outside of work, VanBrakle loves running: half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks are her thing. She also loves live music, but her favorite pastime is hanging with the coolest 6-year-old and 2-year-old she knows: her daughters, Ryleigh and Marley.
VanBrakle is passionate about this work and is always anxious to learn and grow in this field. At times, it is hard for her to trust the process and be patient because she is naturally a quick worker. When this happens, she reminders herself that she is planting a seed to a tree that she will never see and that is OK as long as she is moving in the right direction.
Rocío Villalobos is an Austin native and graduate from The University of Texas at Austin, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in education. Over the past decade, Villalobos has worked to advance various social justice issues as well as support young people’s leadership development in the Austin area. Villalobos brings a commitment to equity and joy to her work in the community.
La’arni Ayuma descends from a family of traditional Filipina/o healers. She integrates the ancient healing arts with other somatic/energy healing techniques and mindfulness practice to promote well-being in her communities. As a queer holistic practitioner, she facilitates spaces that encourage transformational shifts that are rooted in spiritual integrity, empowering community members in their self-care, healing and transformation. As an artist, her work is embodied through her movement. Dancing is her meditation. It is her joy. She is also a proud mother and student to her three children, a gifted musician, a wise elder and a warrior healer.
Deborah Beresky has lived experience with homelessness, addiction, mental health issues and re-entry from the criminal justice system. Beresky works at Caritas of Austin as a peer-support specialist providing permanent supportive housing services to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness with complicated chronic health, addiction and mental health issues. Beresky has served as chairperson for Integral Care’s Planning and Network Advisory Committee.
Kelene Blake-Fallon is an educator, health activist and creative from Trinidad and Tobago and based in Austin. She is the founder of ColorReel, a film-streaming platform for shows by underrepresented filmmakers. As a creative, she does visual and performance art as well as writing, including poetry and screenwriting.
Blake-Fallon is an adjunct professor at Huston-Tillotson University and a member of Black Mamas Community Collective. Living in the intersections as a Black immigrant woman, everything she does involves working creatively with vulnerable communities, disrupting false hierarchies and creating spaces for those communities to assert their unique voices, perspectives and power — and, in so doing, creating a better world.
Alejandro Caceres works with immigrant communities to build collective power to challenge deportation policies. A native of Honduras, his mother traveled to the U.S. when he was two years old and returned to bring Caceres and his sisters to the country four years later. Since 2010, Caceres’ focus has been on immigrant communities in Arizona and Austin.
Lilliana Cardona-Martinez started her career in health care more than 20 years ago, working in various roles including pharmacy technician. Cardona-Martinez moved to Austin to earn her bachelor of arts degree in Mexican-American Studies. She volunteers with various organizations across the community.
Kellee Coleman has more than 18 years of experience in equity and social justice community organizing. She co-founded the Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana prenatal clinic, which provides holistic and culturally sensitive services to lower-income Black and Latinx individuals.
Lorena Sanchez Cruz has worked with the Sustainable Food Center as a facilitator since 2003. She focuses on improving healthy eating within the Latinx community in Central Texas. She has worked with The Cocina Feliz / Happy Kitchen program. Cruz is certified as a Promotorx de Salud / Community Health Worker and is an active member of Santa Barbara Catholic Church. She also volunteers in the Del Valle Independent School District. Cruz has lived experience addressing barriers with transportation, medical care and access to health food.
Priscilla A. Hale, MSW
Priscilla Hale is executive director of allgo, an organization that supports queer people of color. Hale has experience in HIV/AIDS case management, community organizing, production of cultural work, nonprofit administration and program development. An East Austin native, her family has been in the Austin area for seven generations.
As an organizer, activist, advocate-policy analyst and public speaker, David Johnson draws upon his personal experience with incarceration, trauma, mental illness and substance use in his efforts to secure divestment from institutional practices that cause harm and create vulnerable communities while expanding investment in restorative, health-centered solutions to social issues. He is a member of the criminal justice team at Grassroots Leadership, the lead organizer for the Austin chapter of Texas Advocates for Justice and a peer policy fellow with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
Gilpreet Kooner works for a tech company in downtown Austin. She used to work and still volunteers at People’s Community Clinic and is passionate about getting all individuals access to the care they need.
Ari Luna (she/her) is an Afro-Latinx woman born and raised in Central Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from The University of Texas at Austin. Since settling in Austin she has been engaged with building autonomous infrastructures and cultivating shared ethics of collective care with Black, brown, queer and trans folks in Central Texas. By day she’s excited to support Trans Lifeline’s mission, vision and staff as the HR manager. By night she’s a comedian, hanging with friends and/or eating some kind of delicious hot chip.
Esther Chung Martin
Esther Chung Martin is the co-founder of the Asian Behavioral Health Network. She was also the first Asian-American community archivist for the Austin History Center. Martin earned a masters of science in social work from The University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor of arts from Southern Methodist University.
Marva Overton is executive director of the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that engages community members to address health issues that disproportionately impact African Americans.
Carmen Llanes Pulido
Carmen Llanes Pulido is the community director for GO! Austin/VAMOS! Austin in Dove Springs, a place-based and resident-led public health initiative improving access to healthy food and physical activity opportunities for families in Southeast Austin.
Paula X. Rojas
Paula X. Rojas, Community Strategy Team consultant, is a community organizer, licensed midwife and social justice trainer. For more than 20 years, she has worked on issues of gender violence, racial justice, women’s reproductive health, childcare access, health care access and police brutality. Rojas co-founded a number of community-based organizations, including Mamas of Color Rising, Refugio: Center for Community Organizing and the New York Organizing Support Center.
Molly Wang is a licensed professional counselor and mental health educator. She leads cultural competency efforts at Integral Care, where she was previously a behavioral health program manager and intake counselor.