Unlimited Potential's Professional Staff
Lorraine Moya Salas joined UP in April 2009. She earned her PhD in Social Work from Arizona State University in 2007 and has been teaching at the university level for several years. Lorraine is excited to be back in community practice. She has 20 years direct practice and managerial experience and is committed to culturally grounded social work practice.
Veronica Peña joined UP in April 2010. She earned her BS in Sociology and Spanish from Adams College and a graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has over 30 years experience in empowerment practice with minorities, women and youth.
Adult Literacy Program
Sandra Amarillas, Senior ESL Instructor, has been a core instructor with UP for more than 15 years. Her connection to the center began almost 20 years ago when she received her GED from UP. Sandra teaches the first-year English class, coordinates family events and celebrations, organizes educational workshops, and facilitates participants' connection with social services.
Monica Garcia, Second-Year ESL Instructor, earned her MA in Latin American and Border History (UT at El Paso) and a BA in Business Management (University of the Incarnate Word). She comes to UP with more than 10 years of social justice experience in community organizing and teaching. Her teaching methods include culturally driven models utilizing visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile learning. Her research interests include Gender, Historical Trauma, Latin American Feminism (Femenismo Comunitario), Decolonial Theory and Popular Education for Social and Economic Transformation.
Robert B. Decker, GED Lead Instructor, has an MA in Spanish Language and Culture and his adult education certificate. He has taught for 26 years in metro Los Angeles and Phoenix, where he served primarily the Latino community teaching language and family education. Currently, Mr. Decker is a full-time faculty member for the Maricopa County Community College District, teaching Adult Basic Education, English and Spanish. Mr. Decker has also been the lead GED instructor at UP for the last 3 years, providing general education classes. Currently, he mentors all center GED instructors.
Early Childhood Development
Maria Rivera has been the preschool teacher for more than 12 years. Before joining UP, she provided early childhood education at her church. Her connection with the center began when she was a participant in the English-as-a-second-language classes and GED program at UP. Maria is currently attending South Mountain Community College, working on her early childhood education certificate. She also raised 6 children who are now young adults, in college themselves and/or beginning their careers in medicine and in education.
Graciela Medrano teaches in the toddler classroom. She too is a UP graduate and has been taking early childhood education classes at South Mountain College. She provides structured activities for the children to develop their cognitive, linguistic, motor and social skills.
Irene Colmenero like Maria and Graciela, is a former UP participant and has worked at UP for several years. She provides a nurturing environment for infants and toddlers that promotes brain development and she works collaboratively with parents to foster the development of children.
Parents as Teachers and Parenting Wisely
Deborah Merriweather joined UP in October 2012. She earned her BA in Criminal Justice in 2008, and is working towards her Masters in Psychology with emphasis in Addictions at Kaplan University. Her connection to UP began with the collaboration between UP and Bayless Behavioral Health as partners for Project Launch-Parents As Teachers Program. As a Parent Educator she helps to facilitate groups and goes on home visitations. She has been in social services for over 15 years and enjoys helping others achieve their parental goals and healthy familial structures.
Bertha Beltran completed a year-long internship at the center, primarily supporting the early childhood program. After raising her own children and helping with her grandchildren, Bertha returned to school and graduated from Arizona State University in 2012 with a Bachelors degree in Social Work. Bertha is a Parent Educator for the in-home visitation program, Parents as Teachers, and facilitates Parenting Wisely groups where she supports parents in their efforts to prepare their children to succeed at school and life in general.