National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage month is a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions, diverse cultures and the extensive histories of the Hispanic/Latinx community. At the Y, we believe our communities are stronger when everyone feels welcome and we work together for the common good. This month, we're celebrating our staff and the impact they have made on our community.

Ayarim De Anda

Who are you and what do you do? I am a Project Manager with YMCA Childcare Resources Services and the Member Engagement Director II at Border View Family YMCA.

Where are you/your family from? I was born in Chula Vista, California and raised in Chula Vista and Tijuana, Baja California. My mom’s family is from a small town in Sinaloa, Mexico and my dad’s family is from Guadalajara, Mexico. Both my parents moved to Tijuana with their families and later immigrated to the United States.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? For me National Hispanic/Latinx month is important, as it is a way to celebrate our heritage and all of the different accomplishments we have made. I think this month is a time to bring awareness to all the contributions and resilience of our communities. I would like our community to know that this month is all about learning that we are more than one heritage. It is an opportunity to educate everyone on all of the amazing historical contributions, as well as empower our communities to continue positively shaping our society despite of some challenges that we still face today.

How long have you been at YMCA? I have been with the YMCA for 9 years it will be 10 years next March.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? The YMCA has welcomed me from my first day. I am lucky to have my Y peers be an extension of my family and the Y is my second home. Over the years, I have been blessed with opportunities to learn, develop and grow my career at the Y. The amount of support I have received led me to be in an incredible position in my career with the Y. Many of my Y peers and mentors have seen my potential and to have their constant support has been crucial in my professional development.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? My mom and sister constantly inspire me to keep reaching for my dreams, as Mexican women we never give up and always find a way to accomplish what we set our minds too. Also, Gaby Millan, executive director at Border View YMCA, has been a great mentor for me the last few years, being in the leadership role she is in; she has constantly given me advice and is someone I truly admire.


Emilio Alvarez

Who are you and what do you do? My role in the Y is to manage and, alongside a very talented team, implement the network and information systems and support users across our association. This helps further the mission of the YMCA and the community and staff that benefit from them.

Where are you/your family from? My parents grew up in Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico before moving to Tijuana where my brother, sister and I grew up. Growing up we were constantly going back and forth across the border between two very different cultures and ways of life. While there were many challenges, I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up and benefited from that type of dual immersion.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month creates an opportunity for anyone to learn and experience so many of the wonderful aspects of our culture such as food, art, music and history but is especially important as it brings awareness of not only the achievements of those that helped pave the way for equality and a better life here but also the struggles of those who continue fighting to achieve that for our families and community.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? The Hispanic and Latinx people and our heritage is an incredibly rich and diverse one that goes far beyond our closest border to the south. Living in such a migratory region such as ours gives us a unique opportunity to not only connect with our roots if you share the heritage but for anyone to discover and experience some of the vast differences in the musical and culinary arts, rich history and customs of so many of our friends and neighbors right here in our communities.

How long have you been at YMCA? I have been with the Y for 21 years.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? The YMCA has been part of so many important milestones in my life and my career. It’s where I met my wonderful wife, watched my two amazing girls grow and become more confident in their skills and talents and it’s the place I have been fortunate enough to find lifelong friends and mentorship. The Y is the summer job that becomes a second home.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? I am inspired every day by acts of quiet kindness and the courage of friends and family who despite overwhelming loss and life situations, stand for what they believe in and continue moving forward with optimism and grace. Their life example is how I try to emulate.


Araceli Alejandre

Who are you and what do you do? I am the Member Engagement Director at the Mission Valley Y.

Where are you/your family from? My family is from the state of Michoacán in Mexico. I was born in Oceanside, California.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? It reminds us to recognize the many contributions (cultures, traditions and legacies) that Hispanic-Americans have given to shape and build this country – and the world! To me, it means sharing my experiences and traditions with others and educating others about cultural differences and racial disparities that, unfortunately, still exist to this day.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? This month (and every month!) takes the time to learn about a different culture (art, music, food) and honor those who have had impacts on our society. Support local vendors/businesses. Visit museums, read books and learn about your friends’ first-hand experiences.

How long have you been at YMCA? I have been with the Y for 10 years.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? I love the fact that I can connect with people that share different backgrounds than me – from all walks of life. Growing up, I was the translator for my parents - so being able to help members with language barriers gives me a sense of community and reminds me of home.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? Dolores Huerta – a labor leader and civil rights activist, my parents who strived to live the “American Dream” for my siblings and I to lead a good life in the United States. My friends who support me personally and professionally.


Angelica Sanabria

Who are you and what do you do? I am a Kinship Navigator.

Where are you/your family from? My parents immigrated from El Salvador.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? Latinx Heritage month has been a great opportunity for me to reflect on my extremely nuanced identity as a woman of color. As a Mestiza woman, understanding my Indigenous and Spanish history is important for me to honor it as best as I can.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? I would love people to learn about the impact of imperialism in Latin America and how it affects people and policies in the US today. Celebrating Latinx achievements is incomplete without acknowledging the full scope of the US' relationship with Latin America.

How long have you been at YMCA? All my life! As a swimmer, lifeguard, coach, and now a Kinship Navigator!

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? The Y has always fostered an inviting community. I'm honored to practice caring, responsibility, respect, and honesty as a Kinship Navigator and an advocate for equity and justice.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? My mom; we teach each other things and look out for each other like best-friends... also she makes bomb pupusas!


Elvira Ortega

Who are you and what do you do? I have been an inclusion leader, camp leader, unit leader, youth development teacher, and site supervisor for the YMCA.

Where are you/your family from? My family and I are from Oaxaca, Mexico. The state is known for its delicious food!

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? It means that my culture and an important part of my identity is represented within my community. It is important to have this type of month because it allows for younger generations who may have limited exposure to this aspect of their identity find deeper appreciation and connection to their heritage.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? I would like the community to know that Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way to learn more about the different cultures that make up this month, as well as the values and achievements Hispanics/Latinx have contributed to their native lands and around the world.

How long have you been at YMCA? I have been with the Y for three years.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? The YMCA has made me feel welcome in that I have always felt accepted, encouraged to take on more leadership positions, and have been viewed by my abilities and contributions rather than from where I come from.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life?My grandma is the person that inspires me the most because she always emphasizes a good education and hard work. She devoted herself to care for all her 10 children after my grandfather passed away and even though she struggled a lot during her life she never lost her optimism. To this day she’s the happiest person I know and I can always count on her when I need a little boost of motivation.


Andrew Lopez

Who are you and what do you do? I am CYD Program Coordinator for the South Bay Family YMCA. I help support our Character Builders Program and our Camp Department.

Where are you/your family from?? I was born and raised in San Diego, California. My Dad’s side of the family is from Leon, Mexico and my mother’s side is from Puebla, Mexico. I am first-generation Mexican-American.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? Hispanic Heritage month for me means empowerment. To have this type of month helps acknowledge all of the amazing work that Hispanics have contributed throughout history. It gives us representation during a time where it is important to remind the generations that follow that we all have unique strengths and skills that we must use to make for a better world.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? I would like the community to know that Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way to learn more about the different cultures that make up this month, as well as the values and achievements Hispanics/Latinx have contributed to their native lands and around the world.

How long have you been at YMCA? I have worked at the YMCA for 6 years now. Working with our ELP, Camp, DASH, and LCC programs.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? Through my years at the YMCA I have been fortunate to be under the tutelage of exceptional leadership and guidance. The Y has allowed me to continue to grow not only as a professional but as an individual. Allowing me to contribute in meaningful ways to the programs I serve by having my input valued and always considered.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? My family has had a huge impact on my life by showing me that with hard work and determination you can be successful. In a world that has not always traditionally been set up for people of color to be successful in, family has shown with the determination and hard work you can be successful and continue to rise the ranks of society.


Rosa Ruiz-Garcia

Who are you and what do you do? I’m the Health and Wellness Coordinator at Copley-Price Family YMCA.

Where are you/your family from? My family background is from Mexico.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? It’s means that I can be proud of my Hispanic heritage and it’s important to have this month because it gives me the opportunity to share my culture with the community.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? The contribution Hispanic people have input into our country with our extended cuisine, traditions, and culture.

How long have you been at YMCA? I have been witht the Y for 10 years.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? By applying the Y core values: Caring, honesty, respect and responsibilities.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? Frida Kahlo by contributing to the Art and building patrimony of cultural ideas.


Andrea Velasquez

Who are you and what do you do? I am a social work case manager for the Youth Resiliency Center at YMCA Youth and Family Services.

Where are you/your family from? I was born and raised in San Diego. My mom was born in Tijuana and immigrated to the US when she was 8. My Dad was born in Central California and moved to SD after college and met my Mom. My great grandparents on my Dad's side immigrated to the US from Durango and Chihuahua.

What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why is it important to have this type of month? It means honoring my family roots and sharing my culture with others. Representation of Hispanic culture in the US and throughout the Y needs to showcase the traditions, the amazing food, and the language.

What would you like the community to know about Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month? To be Hispanic/Latinx means to be brought together through a language and celebrate what makes us and our community unique.

How long have you been at YMCA? Since 2013, started working with kids and then parents and now families at YMCA Youth Family and Services.

How has the YMCA made you feel welcome? The Y has made me feel welcome by allowing me opportunities to share my background and language with them and the families we serve.

Which Latinx leaders, artists, friends, or family members inspire and guide you in your life? Leaders that inspire me: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Georgette Gómez Musical artists: Chicano Batman, Cuco, Kali Uchis to name a few I'm inspired by all my Hispanic friends! They all have a different story and upbringing. I'm super inspired by my husband's traditional Mexican family that hails from Guadalajara, lots of people, lots of culture, lots of amazing home-cooked food!