Jessica Barragan Carmona

Program Specialist, FutureProfits


Jessica Barragan Carmona has called the Central Valley home since 1998 and has roots tracing back to La Costa Grande of Guerrero, Mexico. Originally introduced to social injustices after entering community college, it is in college where Jessica began her passion for organizing by teaching and empowering Central Valley communities to make social change a reality. An immigrant herself Jessica has witnessed first-hand the impact empowerment can have in individuals and within communities.

Jessica has been working along-side a wide range of Central Valley communities while grassroots organizing around multiple social justice issues such as immigrant rights, union organizing and defending civil liberties. With two Associates of Arts degrees in Social Behavior and Sociology and five years of experience working around social change, Jessica has gained multiple skills including creating intersectional social justice oriented curriculum. As well as training directly impacted communities and allies around policy advocacy regionally and statewide. 

Jessica is working towards obtaining a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Social Science. In Stockton, Jessica is part of the ICE out of Stockton coalition and a board member of Xicana Collective. In her spare time Jessica likes to catch up on the latest true crime tv shows, socializing with her husband Jose, friends and family or creating a new playlist. Contact Jessica.

Maria Cortez

Managing Director, Central Valley


For more than 15 years, Maria has dedicated her career to serving youth and the community. She has successfully managed and led diverse teams and proven her ability to connect with stakeholders, youth and teammates of various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. During her time at the Urban Youth Workers Institue, Maria served as the Conference Director of the annual national conference with over 1,300 attendees, helped shape the Youth Ministry Certification Program, and eventually became the Vice President of Strategy and Execution. Maria is a California native with deep roots in the Central Valley and a love of fast motorcycles. Contact Maria.

Yesenia Cruz

LiveAble Coach


Yesenia Cruz came from Managua, Nicaragua when she was 3 years old and since then she has grown up in Redwood City, North Fair Oaks District. Graduated from Canada College with an AA in Economics. Yesenia’s accidental career path led to Event Consulting and with a well-rounded set of skills in the event world, from any sized event production execution for corporate, Governmental, private parties, to partnering with vendors such as caters. Yesenia left the corporate world in 2015 and has now created her own company Meaningful Events, an event management company. She has a passion to create memorable events made from scratch. In the long run, she would like to be a bridge to new entrepreneurs, utilize their skill set and put them to work for their personal gain. Yesenia loves working within her community and has a passion for building dreams for others. In her spare time, she likes meditating, going to church and networking. Contact Yesenia.

Philip Durden

Vice President of Finance and Operations


Philip began his career in corporate finance with Ernst & Young and Deutsche Bank, then spent 12 years in private equity primarily with Lexington Partners.  Since 2010, Philip has actively invested in real estate opportunities, including single-family, multi-family residential, and hotel properties.  Philip served as board chairperson for 10 Thousand Windows, an organization offering economic empowerment services for survivors of violence and exploitation, and he has volunteered in various roles with several Bay Area non-profit organizations.  He loves seeing people gain control of their lives and begin to achieve their own life goals.  Philip received his bachelor’s degree in Economics at UC Santa Barbara and later received his MBA from UCLA Anderson.  He lives in Menlo Park, CA with his wife and three children.  Contact Philip.

Elizabeth Garcia

Program Specialist, FutureProfits


Elizabeth has lived in the Central Valley all of her life, loves to cook, travel and enjoys the outdoors. For the past 5 years she has worked directly with the school districts and understands the high needs many families have. During her time in the public school setting, she has worked alongside various community agencies such as Center for Human Services, Sierra Vista, El Concilio and Healthy Start. Elizabeth is passionate about being a mentor and adviser to those that are going through educational or financial hardships, and be that someone that empowers them. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor’s Degree from CSU Stanislaus and is currently in the M.A in Education, Counselor program. Contact Elizabeth.

Marie Garrido

Senior Communications Associate


Marie is passionate about helping young people in the community.  She recently moved back to the Bay Area in 2016 from Arizona. She received her BS in Nonprofit Leadership & Management at Arizona State University(ASU).  While studying at ASU, Marie volunteered with many youth organizations including: Boys & Girls Clubs, Free Arts AZ and Tumbleweed. Prior to Able Works she worked at Beyond Emancipation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marin and Petaluma.  Currently Marie serves on the Board at PEERS, an Oakland nonprofit that promotes peer based wellness strategies and community-based mental health programs. Contact Marie. 

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Sue Johnson

Vice President of Programs


Sue worked in the high tech industry for over 10 years, first as a management consultant with Accenture, then in Latin America business development for Apple. After becoming a mother, Sue devoted her time to raising her two children and volunteering in their schools and church. With a deep desire to make a positive impact in her local community,  Sue relaunched her career in 2010 with a focus on social justice.  She is passionate about helping others reach their full potential.  Sue holds a B.A. and an M.B.A. from Baylor University and an M.I.M. from Thunderbird School of Global Management.  Contact Sue.

John Liotti

Co-Founder and CEO


In 2007, Rev. John Liotti co-founded Able Works with a passion to focus on the economic issues underlying the communities in Northern California. John, who has extensive community development experience, recognized a deep need in under-resourced communities for financial education, life skills, assets and connections to the larger community and economy of the region. John is passionate about connecting and harnessing the abundant resources of the Bay Area to shatter generational cycles of poverty and systematic oppression.

Under John’s leadership, Able Works has piloted several innovative programs, including FutureProfits, a curriculum for financial education and decision-making skills for youth; LiveAble, a cohort-based support, goal-setting and finance and career management program for single mothers ages 18 to 30; free foreclosure and credit counseling; and low-income housing.

At an early age, John dedicated his life to serving under-resourced youth and families in communities locally in California’s Central Valley and Bay Area, nationally in Los Angeles, Central Florida and New York City, as well as abroad in Northern Mexico. He has lived and worked in East Palo Alto for seventeen years.

In addition to his work at Able Works, John serves as a board member on the Christian Community Development Association, YCore and the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County. John has a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Studies with an emphasis in Ethics from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA and is a Chaplain for the East Palo Alto Police Department.

John is the lucky husband of Melissa (for about 56 million years) and proud father of son Samuel and his two rescue dogs, Jax and Clementine. Contact John.

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Blanca Medina

LiveAble Program Manager


Blanca attended Cañada College and holds an Associate’s Degree as a medical assistant. Blanca has lived in East Palo Alto most of her life and has worked alongside various community-based organizations such as JobTrain, One East Palo Alto, and New Creation Home Ministries. She is passionate about helping her community and making a positive impact on the lives of its citizens. Blanca is a certified housing counselor and uses her knowledge to help homeowners in south San Mateo County. Blanca resides in East Palo Alto with her daughter Jocelyn and son Jorge. Contact Blanca

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Angela Montes

Executive Assistant / Office Coordinator


An East Palo Alto native, Angela brings her positivity, strong sense of justice, efficiency, kindness and passion for her community to our team dynamic. In addition to keeping the Able Works office organized and well-managed, Angela works with community members who need credit counseling. Angela is fully bilingual in English and Spanish and her family is originally from México. Angela has attended San Jose State University and is (still) fiercely loyal to our Bay Area sports teams. She and her five-year-old son, Carlitos, enjoy talking about dinosaurs and space. Contact Angela.

Stephanie Noriega

Director of LiveAble


Stephanie’s deep drive to serve urban youth and families led her to work for organizations such as Davis Street Family Resource Center and La Familia Counseling Service. Stephanie joins Able Works from Oakland Unified School District where she supported unaccompanied immigrant youth and their families in navigating the legal and education systems to ensure a smooth transition. A native of East Palo Alto, Stephanie has focused her career on lifting up her own community. She earned her MSW in Children and Family Services from University of Southern California. In addition to her MSW, she holds a B.S. from St. Mary’s College of California and is bilingual in English and Spanish. Contact Stephanie.

Alicia Ponce Diaz

FutureProfits Program Manager


Alicia is an East Palo Alto native constantly searching for ways to enrich and fortify her community. As a first-generation American, Alicia has seen first-hand the financial struggles and instability in her own home and within minority and immigrant populations, not only in East Palo Alto but in the world as a whole. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on political and economic development from Yale University, Alicia hopes that FutureProfits will allow for her to impact communities like her own through financial literacy. An eager learner, Alicia plans to use her passion for personal development to enrich the lives of the students she touches while hoping to gain as much and more from each person she touches through her efforts with FutureProfits. Contact Alicia.

Umeeka Sheena

FutureProfits Associate Program Manager


In 2013, Umeeka completed her Bachelors in Psychology at the University of California: Merced. She has since continued in the path of Psychology and recently finished her Masters from Northcentral University, which is an online graduate program. After earning her Bachelor’s degree, she became a Teaching Fellow at Ronald McNair Middle School in East Palo Alto, which happens to be her hometown. To be able to give back to her community in a positive manner was truly rewarding for Umeeka. She has also worked with children with autism, in the medical field as an administrative assistant and most recently, as the program coordinator for a before and after school care program. Umeeka is excited and proud to be part of a team that emphasizes the importance of community and collaboration. Contact Umeeka

Jane Su

Communications and Development Manager


Jane is a well-traveled, animal-loving, passionate advocate of social justice. Jane was born in Atlanta, Georgia but relocated to Hsinchu, Taiwan when she was seven. While in Taiwan, Jane witnessed economic injustice and poverty. After graduating from Smith College, Jane moved to Los Angeles to work for multiple nonprofit organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and spcaLA. When not working, Jane enjoys spending time with her baby daughter Amelia and nephew Joshua, knitting, and hiking. She also loves to travel.  Contact Jane.