The Nueva Esperanza Team



Nelson Roman

Nelson Rafael Roman –
Executive Director  

Nelson Rafael Roman was born and raised in Waterbury, CT. He is the proud Puerto Rican son of Yvonne Roman. Nelson has two brothers, one older; David Roman Jr, who is in his final year of being a Catholic Priest. As well as one younger brother; Ivan Roman who is finishing his Master’s Degree in Communications. Nelson also has family members in Puerto Rico in the town of Guanica. He lives with his partner Manuel Hernandez on Ingleside Street, in the Ingleside section of Holyoke.

Nelson moved to Holyoke in 2011 and immediately became immersed in the culture and fabric that makes Holyoke unique. Overcoming obstacles such as homelessness,contracting HIV, and poverty, Nelson immediately began giving back and organizing in the Puerto Rican and LGBT Communities. He has worked for or with many Holyoke Non-for-profits such as Enlace de Familias, New England Farm Workers Council, LightHouse Personalized Education for Teens, Valley Opportunity Council & Nueva Esperanza to name a few.

Nelson is currently the Founder / Board Member of Pa’lante Theater Company & Founding Member / Past President of the Imperial Court of Western Mass Inc. Nelson has also previously served on the boards of Holyoke PRIDE, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Springfield, the AIDS Foundation of Western Mass, and Springfield MASS PRIDE. He has received numerous awards including the Audre Lordes Founder Award (the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition of Boston, 2013), and an International Court Commendation (Queen Mother Nicole the Great, 2014).  This year Nelson was honored to be the recipient of the 2017 Business West 40 Under 40 and 2017 El Mundo Boston’s Latino 30 Under 30 Awards.

In 2015 & 2017, Nelson was elected/re-elected as the City Council representative for Ward 2. He is the Chairman of the Joint Committee of the City Council & School Committee and serves on the Council’s Development & Government Relations Committee. Nelson has helped to create three Neighborhood Associations, Co-Founded & Chaired the Inaugural “Taste of South Holyoke Festival,” and helped the city to create, plan and execute the first ever “Holyoke World AIDS Day Event.”

He is known for his continued presence in the ward, (Especially South Holyoke), and as someone who is always available to his constituents, colleagues and others. Nelson Roman has proved time and time again that he is a proven leader, proving real results for the businesses/churches/residents of Ward 2 and Holyoke as a whole. Now he will perform the same for Nueva Esperanza.


Kayla Rodriguez – Administration, Operations, & HR  Manager  

Kayla is a welcomed asset to the Nueva Esperanza team.


Kayla, is a Holyoke native, homeowner and a wealth of knowledge and experience concerning financial systems, accountability and transparency.  Having worked as the Deputy Treasurer for the City of Holyoke.  Kayla, is a mother of two amazing young boys who attend the Holyoke Community Charter School.


Heidi Soriano – Staff
Administrative/Office Assistant 

Heidi has been with Nueva Esperanza as our administrative assistant since July, 2018 overseeing all the administrative functions in the office.  Heidi is a Dominican, who was raised in the island of Puerto Rico.  She lives in Chicopee with her husband and is passionate about culture and the mission of Nueva Esperanza.  She directly handles all costumer service matters such as client needs, providing information directly neighbor to neighbor in the community of Holyoke. She is also responsible for the supervision of all youth counselor staff. If you have a “Nueva Esperanza” questions, she’s your gal! Also, direct any administrative issues you have her way and she’d be happy to help you.


Ray Padron – Youth Program Specialist 

Ray Padron, original from Bronx, New York, moved to Holyoke in 2009 at age 13 and has been a proud Holyoke resident for the past 9 years.

This past year Ray was a Social Justice counselor for the Cuyo Social Justice Summer Program, specializing in music and bucket drumming instruction. Ray is the choir and lead music director for his church Iglesia la Ultima Cosecha Inc, in Springfield, Mass.  He has a passion and love for all things music. Ray is a father of two energetic young boys Jayden and Adrian.




Damaris Aponte – Outreach & Community
Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

Damaris Aponte was born in San Lorenzo, P.R. She came to the flats of Holyoke in 1978. She lived in the flats for 35 years until she bought her house in Holyoke in 2011.
Damaris worked in the medical field for 20 years and has recently changed carreer paths to become the new Community Engagement Specialist for Nueva Esperanza. She loves working with the community and wants to be a great asset to the spanish-afro culture in Holyoke.

She will be tasked with coordinating services and tenant outreach for the Nueva Esperanza owned properties, the VOCES de Esperanza properties, and the Flats neighborhood.



Cassandra Cardona – Staff
Program Specialist / Marketing & PR

Cassandra Cardona, born in the South Bronx, New York, moved to Western Mass in 2014 and is now a proud resident of West Springfield for the past two years.  Cassandra is no  the first to graduate college in her family in 2014, from Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus with her bachelors in Marketing on the Dean’s list. While in college she demanded more by starting an entrepreneur organization in her last two years of college, winning organization of the year in 2013.
She brings to Nueva Esperanza her tenacious attitude, worldwide views of culture and need for creativity. As the new Public Relations, Marketing, Program Specialist, and Co-Facilitator of the Woman’s Group of Nueva Esperanza, she hopes to make a difference in the lives and future of the Puerto Rican and Afro Caribbean community here in Holyoke, MA.



Heidi Soriano – Staff
Administrative/Office Assistant 

Evelyn Ortiz has been with Nueva Esperanza as our Receptionist/ Customer Service
since October 22 2018. As the Receptionist she answers all incoming calls and
welcomes all incoming visitors, In addition she helps organize activities & functions.
Evelyn is a Native from Puerto Rico immigrated to the city of Holyoke in 1970 and now a resident of the city of West Springfield. Evelyn has worked in the local Auto Sales dealerships for 20 plus, years, welcomes the opportunity to excel in the community been part of the staff here at
Nueva Esperanza, Evelyn is passionate about culture and the mission of Nueva Esperanza.


Javier Colon –  Elms College 
Social Work Intern  

Bio – – – Coming soon.










Estrella Chloe Soto – UMASS Senior Intern 

Chloe was born and raised in the City of Holyoke a graduate of Holyoke Community College, Chloe is an activist and pioneer in the Western Mass LGBT community as well as the media/communications profession.  Chloe’s summer internship consisted of updated and expanding Nueva Esperanza’s web/social media presence and impressions.

Chloe is going into her final year of study at UMASS Amherst.




Meet the Board of Directors of Nueva Esperanza, Inc. Any person interested in becoming a member of the Board of Directors to advance the mission and vision of Nueva Esperanza, Inc., please send a letter of interest to  

The Board of Directors meets the third Wednesday of every month, 401 Main Street, Holyoke, MA 01040.



Irene Feliciano
Board President & Chair, Board of Directors

A lifelong Holyoker, Irene Feliciano-Sims, is the Board of Directors Secretary. Ms. Feliciano-Sims in her professional life is the Employment Coordinator at Community Enterprises, Inc. a non-profit that helps the mentally handicap. Felicano-Sims is also a School Committee woman for Ward 4 in the City of Holyoke a proud mother of two and a wife to a US military man, Christopher. Ms. Sims is an advocate and fighter for equal access and opportunities for all. Feliciano-Sims serves on the State Diversity Board for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.





Juan Sanchez
Board Clerk, Board of Directors

Juan Sanchez is a lifelong resident and community activist in Holyoke. He has an Associates Degree in Education from Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and hopes to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree.

Juan’s passion is with grassroots community organizing. He has worked on numerous campaigns and initiatives throughout the city and the region to help advance progress on issues impacting marginalized communities which include issues of homelessness, economic and workforce development, LGBTQ equal rights and opportunity, and social equity. He states that his passion comes from his own personal experiences and gives credit to those he recognizes as community mentors during his upbringing. Juan currently is the LGBT Outreach Coordinator for WestMass Eldercare.




Rosa Pantoja
Board Treasurer, Board of Directors 

Rosa Pantoja, is the Partner/Co-Owner of Pantoja’s Tax Services of Holyoke, with over 20 years of Tax preparing and accounting experience, Mrs. Pantoja brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Board of Directors.   Mrs. Pantoja has served in the role as Board Treasurer for the past two years.  On top of her Tax Service business, Mrs. Pantjoa serves as the Campaign Treasurer for current Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, State Representative Aaron Vega, and has a side business called Luna Lunatix Studios, which offers customer make-up designs, including extreme Halloween make up, prosthetics, face/body painting, and event planning and wedding consulting, among other services.    In her free time Mrs. Pantoja also plays professional trumpet in a salsa band, “Orquesta Luis Morales y sus Amigos.”


Joshua Garcia
Board of Directors

Joshua A. Garcia, MPA., a 2015 recipient of BusinessWest 40 Under Forty, is a practicing Public Administrator with a focus on community development, public management, and good governance. From his professional capacity beginning at the Holyoke Housing Authority as its Property Manager, to now a Project Manager in the Community Development Section of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Josh is dedicated to improving the qualify-of-life for all residents. When he is not working, he contributes his professional experience to the development of his hometown, the City of Holyoke. He served as an elected representative on the Holyoke School Committee, he serves on local and regional community development boards, initiatives, and committees, and he is also a mayoral appointed member of the Fire Commission for the Holyoke Fire Department. Joshua, a past Board President of Nueva Esperanza,was raised in South Holyoke and a youth participant of the organization.



Samuel Mateo
Board of Directors

Sammy has been a resident of Holyoke, MA for over 20 years. He is the media director and community liaison for the Apostolic Christian Church of Bethsaida located in South Holyoke. With Sammy’s help, the church has launched several community outreach and service program activities including the Back 2 School Fair and Feeding the Needy. At the Back 2 School Fair over a thousand families of low to medium income are provided with backpacks full of school supplies in the hopes of alleviating the financial burden of sending children back to school. Feeding the Needy is a program that offers the less fortunate a free meal and clothing in the greater Holyoke area. Their outdoor events are held 4 times a year. Since its inception in 2010 they have served hundreds of families in South Holyoke and the rest of the community.

Professionally, he is the Marketing & Web Manager of JC Danczak, Inc. He joined the business in 2001 and has built 4 thriving online eCommerce websites that cater to the product packaging needs of thousands of businesses across the US, Canada & Puerto Rico. Mr. Mateo has an associate’s degree in IT services, however has specialized in working in the Graphic and Web Design industry for over 20 years in his own business Pro D’ZYNES and if you could not tell he is a professional drummer as well.


Dan Battat
Board of Directors

Dan is a glassblower and arts educator. Beginning a career through internship in a public access glassblowing studio in Boston, MA, Dan pursued art and design for a Bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College. He landed in Holyoke in 2013 to co-found Brick CoWorkshop, an art and design based workspace in the downtown area, where he maintains a personal glass-working studio.

Dan also works as art teacher at The CARE Center, where he leads young mothers through art making and art history lessons. He particularly enjoys leading the students in an eight-week glassblowing class once per year.

Dan brings creative talents to the table, as well as a keen determination to uphold the history and longevity of Nueva Esperanza, Inc. as a force that serves and advocates for the community.


Jason Ferenc
Board of Directors

Jason Ferenc, a graduate of UMASS Amherst, and an attorney in the bar since 2012, Attorney Ferenc works for Virgilio Property Management Inc in Holyoke. Attorney Ferenc, has served on Town Council Boards and various other commissions and has a wealth of nonprofit and property/real-estate law behind his belt. Attorney Ferenc has also served as the attorney for the Greater Holyoke Rental Housing Association, and in his free time enjoys reading and giving back to the community.



Carlos Peña
Board of Directors

Carlos is a founding staff member and a Teacher/Advisor at LightHouse Holyoke. Carlos has a degree from UMass Amherst, and is an artist, screen printer, and poet. He is also the founder/owner of Paper City Clothing a screen printing/clothing design company located on Dwight Street in Holyoke. Carlos also serves on the Board of Directors of Artesana Holyoke a women of color empowerment, weaving, re purposing company.





Mildred Lefebvre
Board of Directors

Mildred Lefebrve, is a Holyoke Cubana with a passion for the Latino Culture and for improving our city’s school system. Mrs. Lefebrve, is a Licensed Practicing Nurse with Caregivers of Massachusetts. She has 4 children and a loving husband, she is also the current Ward 1 School Committee woman. On top of her professional accolades Mrs. Lefebrve created a company called Nati’s Attic that sells jewelry and chain jewelry accessories.