Laura Acosta


Executive Director and Founder

Laura was born in the beautiful city of Santiago, Dominican Republic, and immigrated to New York when she was 12 years old. While helping her mother navigate the “American System”, she quickly developed an interest in public service and New York politics. For approximately five years, she was a top-ranking Dominican woman in New York City government, serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to the New York City Public Advocate, Letitia James (now NYS Attorney General). Before that, she was President & CEO of LA & Associates, Inc., a professional consulting entity whose main projects were political in nature. In addition to her political endeavors, Laura is a dedicated community activist and advocate for human rights and with the need to support the Dominican community, she founded the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in 2003. The Foundation provides educational guidance and mentorship to Latino students both in New York and the Dominican Republic. Laura also opened the first Beacon School for the Dominican Association of Progressive Dominicans (ACDP), which continues to serve thousands of families on an annual basis. Through this work, Laura has helped cultivate the educational success of numerous students who are the first in their families to attend college. Laura has directed field operations for multiple political campaigns, including Bill Thompson for Mayor 2013, 2010 campaign for New York State Assembly, New York State Senate races in Long Island and Washington Heights in 2010. Laura is proud to have been part of the organizing team that helped elect the first Dominican lawyer in New York City history to a Civil Court judgeship in 1997, and part of the 2016 campaign that helped elect the first U.S. congressman of Dominican heritage, Adriano Espaillat. Laura earned her B.A. in Human Services from Metropolitan College of New York. Her favorite song is “La Vida es un Carnaval” by Celia Cruz.

Joaquin A. Labour


Board President

Joaquin is the President and co-founder of The Human Potential Development Institute, a consulting firm based in South Orange NJ, dedicated to developing and improve the operations of small businesses, not-for- profit organizations and private and community Foundations. With more than fifteen years of experience in the fields of information technology, and the management of general operations, Joaquin fields of expertise focus on support analytical accounting, budgeting and reporting; Policy and procedure development and business compliance; Grants and programs administration with an extensive practice on project management and systems implementation. For more than one decade, Joaquin has put his skills and expertise in the service of his community, especially in support of transformative art and artists. He has collaborated with visual artists and performers from the USA and Latin America. His passion for the arts and its communities drive him to support art projects and established talents in their effective promotion and presentation to broad audiences inside and outside of the Dominican Community. Joaquin has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña and a post-graduate certificate in business project management from New York University. He has worked as a Grants Administrator for the Heron and Prudential Foundations and as funds administrator for the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Joaquin is also a co-founder of Nuevo Mundo Films, a company dedicated produce motion picture projects based on the past and recent history of the Dominican Republic.

David Rivas


Board Treasurer

A dynamic and passionate person. Always involved in community affairs and activities. A civic individual who cares about families and humanity. A music lover who enjoys playing the alto sax and listening to all music. An avid traveler. Envisions having time to study music, math, languages and doing voluntary work for the elderly and disabled. David is the President and General Manager of Rivas Travel and Multi-Services, a corporation that has over 20 years of serving the Northern Manhattan Community.

Eleazar F. Bueno


Board Member

Eleazar was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He arrived in the US at the age of 15. Eleazar holds an Undergraduate degree in Psychology and Business Administration from the University of Central Florida. As a JPD Foundation board member, he brings a wealth of experience to the work of public advocacy and community events management. This includes the ability to create and utilize business experience to achieve excellent community relations and policy goals, as well as understanding the role media plays in community relations and outcomes. He is a dedicated and committed member of the Dominican diaspora in NYC. With his business expertise he is responsible for the coordination of various Dominican centered events that include Festival producer for 809 Restaurant, Telemicro TV and the JPD Foundation for the past 10 years. In 2017 he joined the Empanadas Monumental model and has successfully increased from four stores to eight. This model was featured in the Daily News due to its innovative menu which stays true to the flavors and dishes of the homeland.

Josenia Dominguez


Board Member

Josenia was born to immigrant Dominican parents. She is a meticulous professional which will come in handy when serving as a member of the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation Board. Josenia is currently the Director of Administration for the Office of the New York City Public Advocate; Jumaane Williams. In addition, from 2014 to March 2019 she served as the Office Manager for Attorney General Letitia James in her tenure as Public Advocate. As a member of the JPD Foundation Board, Josenia will continue to be an avid supporter of the Dominican community, specifically around children’s issues and educational needs. Josenia is a parent whose dedication to her family and her children’s education has brought her recognition in the Dominican community while performing volunteer work to support local organizations. She was the 2019 Honoree for the People’s Theatre Project Gala whose mission is to make theatre with immigrant communities to grow generations of socially engaged artists and leaders. Josenia holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University at Albany, State University of New York

Katherine Fernandez


Board Member

As the Director of Client Relations at Angulo Strategies, I have the opportunity to regularly interact with our clients. Not only do I work to anticipate their needs, but I also look to build strong relationships with each client. Getting to know them and taking care of them is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I take great satisfaction in helping simplify clients’ lives by bringing them the resources and information they need to accomplish their financial objectives. Being fluent in Spanish, I also take pride in working in a bilingual office, helping clients in the Hispanic community achieve their financial goals. Before joining Angulo Strategies in 2013, I was an agent at New York Life, helping people with their insurance and long-term care needs. Previously, I worked in residential sales and rentals in New York. My passion for helping people extends beyond my professional career. I have donated my hair multiple times to Locks of Love to help children affected by cancer. I’m also passionate about traveling to new places and training in mixed martial arts. I hold an Associate degree from the Wood Tobé-Coburn School, and am involved with the Red Shoe Movement as a volunteer.

Kilsy Hidalgo


Board Member

Kilsy, daughter of Dominican parents who migrated and settled in Washington Heights as they searched for their definition of the American dream and raise a family in the United states without forgetting the Dominican Culture. This upbringing became the basis of Kilsy’s passion to always pursue her goals and continuously pay it forward to her community. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Business Management from Utica College of Syracuse University, becoming the first family member to graduate college. As the only Dominican out of the Founding Members of Lambda Pi Eta, National Communications Honor society’s Omicron Alpha Chapter, Kilsy made sure to promote her journey with hopes to motivate other Latinos to learn about honor societies. Founding Sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated’s Alpha Epsilon Chapter of New York. Kilsy is also a member of The Order of Eastern Star, Manhattan District’s Alpha Chapter NO.1 Kilsy was introduced to Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation when she served as the Greek Affairs Chair for the 2006 Festival y Carnaval del Boulevard and immediately felt at home.

Pedro Suarez


Board Member

Raised in the Bronx by Dominican and Puerto Rican parents, Pedro has worked within both the public and private sectors on issues including economic development, environmental sustainability, community relations, and program development. Pedro currently works with the NYC Department of Sanitation and has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College. Pedro first became involved with the JPD Foundation when he received financial and professional development assistance as a high school and college student. He knows first hand how important organizations like JPD are to the educational development of youth in our communities and has stayed involved with JPD as a board member.

William A. Garcia


Board Member

William is one of the founding members, and a former chair, of The Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation. He has worked in, and actively served the, Washington Heights and Inwood communities in various capacities for over 25 years. He is the current chair of the board of directors of Viva Uptown, a local non-profit church collaborative focusing on youth mentoring, among other services. He is also a member of the board of directors of Manhattan Legal Services, a provider of free legal services to low-income residents of Manhattan; a member of the Encourage Judicial Service Committee of the New York City Bar; and a member of the Character and Fitness Committee of the Appellate Division, First Department. In the past, Mr. Garcia served as a member of the Judicial Hearing Officers Selection Advisory Committee of the Appellate Division, First Department; a member of the board of directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ); a member and chair of the board of directors of the Business Resource & Investment Service Center at UMEZ (BRISC); and a member and chair of Community Planning Board 12, Manhattan. As an attorney in private practice with Garcia & Kalicharan, P.C., Mr. Garcia counsels and represents clients in complex litigation matters, commercial and real estate transactions, estate and probate proceedings, as well as immigration removal, visa, adjustment, and citizenship proceedings. He received his undergraduate degree from New York University and his law degree from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. While in law school, Mr. Garcia had the opportunity to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of the Hofstra Property Law Journal and to assist in the representation of law-income clients at Bronx Legal Services. He is married and the father of four children.

John Katt


Advisory Board Member

John is a techie who works with passionate innovators looking to create change, by providing product development and management skills to organizations and young startup teams. John believes in the power of working alongside those facing today’s problems, empowering them to innovate powerful and meaningful solutions that work for them. The power of building solutions with and not for has given John the opportunity to create impactful and real solutions. John has worked with government agencies, small businesses and young startups to discover how technology and innovation can further their mission. Working on projects such as the New York City Public Advocates Worst Landlord Watchlist, which uses data to identify the worst acting landlords in NYC. Designing, organizing and launching, as the CTO, betterment technology hackathons with Illicit Mind Inc. Bringing together the community to create solutions to the biggest problems faced today in the areas of finance, education, immigration etc. John is an experienced engineer, working on projects spanning software/hardware and information technology infrastructure. John holds a Bachelors in Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology from New York Institute of Technology.

Led Black


Advisory Board Member

Led is a writer, blogger, social media expert and widely respected influencer. Led Black is the founder of www.UptownCollective.com, which has established itself as the voice of Uptown Manhattan online. Since taking Professor Sree Sreenivasan’s Social Media course at Columbia University in 2010, Led Black has shrewdly used social media to make Uptown Collective a highly esteemed and indispensable resource. The Uptown Collective is one of a few very select blogs that was featured in the blogroll of the non-defunct City Rooms section of the NY Times. Led Black was selected to the 2013 Class of Latino Trailblazers by DigiBunch, one of the nation’s most influential Hispanic communities online. In 2014, Led Black was chosen as a founding member of the Ford Millennials team. Ford Millennials is an important initiative from Ford en Español that selects young and emerging Latino influencers from across the country and helps to nurture their growth and development. In 2015, Led was named the Upstanding Person of the Year by the Up Theater Company. Besides overseeing the various social media platforms of the Uptown Collective, Led Black has lent his social media expertise to several film projects as well as local businesses and organizations. Led Black is currently the Social Media Manager for the Manhattan Times, the Bronx Free Press and the New York Latino Film Festival. His work has been featured on CNN, Huffington Post, Remezcla and Being Latino among many other outlets.

Maria Elisa Geraldo


Advisory Board Member

Maria was born in the beautiful city of Santiago Dominican Republic and immigrated to the U.S.A. She is a versatile skilled administrator and is currently the Director and COO for a Landscaping company in New Jersey. Maria also worked as Office Manager for Dr. Raphael Vazquez, MD Ophthalmologist located in Washington Heights where she quickly became familiar with the needs of the Dominican Community. Maria attended law school at a top university in Santiago Dominican Republic, Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra where she obtained a Bachelor degree in civil law. After graduation she began to practice law while employed as an attorney by the “Centro Juridico” in Santiago where she developed her career by litigating on behalf of her clients. She quickly became partner in a Family established Law Firm, Batista, Belliard & Asociados, D.R. One of Maria’s most memorable life experiences was her work as the Director of the Missionette’s program at the Englewood Assembly of God church located in Englewood, NJ. She finds that her time with these young women, gave her the opportunity to make a difference in their lives and in the process recognize her true calling, serving others while enriching and mentoring them.

Yolanny Rodríguez


Advisory Board Member

Actress and theater director, known for theater works done with women. Founded Teatro Las Tablas in 2006 to present theater in Spanish in Washington Heights and other interested communities with emerging and professional artists of all Latin America. Wrote “12,” “The Displacement Monologues,” “Íta Madre,” “Las vueltas que la vida” (co-written with Dinorah Coronado), Adapted the fables “Cuco, the boogieman,” and “This Fable of the Jungle” to children’s theater and also wrote 2 short films, “La Bombilla” and “Aflixión.” Yolanny loves the rhythms of language, her most outstanding diction, and accent work is in Light of Ashes by Marco Antonio Rodríguez and At the Time of the Butterflies, Caridad Svich’s adaptation of Julia Alvarez novel. Has directed over a dozen plays. Mayor Bloomberg distinguished her with NY Immigrant Visionary Award for her work with other able youth. She Holds a B.A. in Sociology from Marymount Manhattan College.