Community Strategy Team
The Department of Population Health works with nine 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
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.
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.
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.
Ari Luna focuses on building autonomous infrastructures and cultivating shared ethics of collective care with black and brown, poor and queer folks in Central Texas. She has extensive professional and personal experience with nonprofits as well as physical and mental health services. Luna earned a Bachelor of Social Work from UT Austin.
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.
Currently, Cherelle VanBrakle is the community-centered health home manager at People’s Community Clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Austin. In this position, she works on upstream issues that affect people’s health and work to create an agenda for the clinic to push forth policy change.
VanBrakle has experience in research and education from serving as an adjunct professor of health and kinesiology at Austin Community College. She has assisted in the creation of a kinesiology curriculum geared towards 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 the community partnerships. She is also active in the community, partnering with local organizations to provide opportunities for individuals to gain health education and become more civically engaged.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.