Director of Latino Leadership and Engagement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Born and raised in West Texas, Vanessa got her first real taste of the power of organizing while attending Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas — hosting an unsanctioned town hall meeting to give students the opportunity to openly air their concerns about the administration and propose solutions.
After being bitten by the political bug, Vanessa continued a career in politics and the government sector, building a legislative portfolio to include health care and honing her skills as a communications professional.
After a stint on Capitol Hill serving as Communications Director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and serving in senior roles for various Democratic campaigns, Vanessa remained in Arizona working on the legislative team for then Governor Janet Napolitano.
Falling in love with Arizona, Vanessa attended graduate school at Arizona State University, obtaining both her Masters’ in Social Work and Public Administration. Vanessa’s focus was early childhood development, and she worked hand-in-hand with immigrant families, providing therapy for children with developmental delays between the ages of 0 to 5. The opportunity to work with these families, hear their stories of struggle, and too often of violence, is an experience Vanessa brings to all her work. These families’ personal stories, coupled with the constant fear of deportation and other burdens imposed by Arizona’s out of touch politicians, further strengthened Vanessa’s resolve to use her life, her privilege and her skills to fight for those who often felt that they had no voice.
In her role at Planned Parenthood, she works to ensure that all women have the information, education, and care they need to make their own personal medical decisions, especially when it comes to sexual health and family planning. She works to expand and strengthen partnerships with Latino-serving institutions and advocates to advance Planned Parenthood’s mission and commitment to women’s health. She also acts as a key advisor for Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide to help deepen their relationships with the Latino community.
More importantly, Vanessa was instrumental Planned Parenthood’s multimedia campaign to help Latinos learn about and enroll in the Affordable Care Act. Vanessa co-created the Raiz Outreach Program, a grassroots organizing program for Latinos in the 5 states with the highest Latino populations in United States to better access they care they need. Under her direction and personal hands-on, organizers knocked on 3 million doors and 715,000 Latinos were provided information and tools to enroll in affordable health care coverage.
Also on behalf of PPFA Vanessa worked with the National Council of La Raza, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Enroll America, and the White House to convene 65 Latino enrollment summits across the country.
Vanessa advocates on behalf of Latinos in support of legislative issues that advance women’s reproductive health and rights.
Vanessa and her understanding husband are the proud parents of a very vocal toddler and make their home in Washington, DC.