Our Team & Members

Dr. Wilma Franco – Collaborative Director

Dr. Wilma Franco serves as Director of the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative and holds a doctorate degree in Education – Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne.  Dr. Franco successfully defended dissertation was entitled, “Employer’s Perception of Their Role in Student Learning and Skill Development: A Qualitative Case Study.”  Dr. Franco completed her undergraduate work at the University of California- Los Angeles (UCLA) where she earned her B.A in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies with a minor in Public Policy.  During her time at UCLA she worked closely with the NAID Center researching the Economic Impact of immigration post 1986 immigration reform.

Dr. Franco went on to complete her Master’s Degree in Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC), where she also completed a certificate in Public Management.  Dr. Franco has over ten years of experience in overseeing nonprofits and community based programs and has a solid background in program development, evaluations, partnership development, finance, fundraising and development.  Previously, Dr. Franco spent seven years developing, evaluating, and managing programs at “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles; a program that sponsored students in elementary school years and work with the cohort until they graduate high school, and transition to post-secondary education, by providing whole child services.  In collaboration with USC, Dr. Franco launched a mental health programming component at I Have a Dream that continues to service students.  Additionally, Dr. Franco’s collaboration with CSULB as an internship placement partner resulted in her being recognized as the organization of the year two consecutive years.    Dr. Franco is also a part-time lecturer in the Human Development Department at California State University – Long Beach (CSULB) and serves as a Board Member for the D.A.D Project.  Dr. Franco is a proud alumnus of Education Pioneers and the Magnolia Community Initiative Fellowship.  Dr. Franco was inspired to work at SELA Collaborative given its core values and commitment to the Southeast LA region by way of creating a collective approach to serving the region through nonprofit capacity building, civic engagement, and data and research. Send Wilma an email.

Cynthia N. Cortez – Associate Director

With a background in program design, implementation, and evaluation, Cynthia brings expertise in data-informed learning and action. Cynthia understands the process of teaching various stakeholders – board members, leadership, management, front line staff, and youth and families—on how to collect, think about, and use data effectively. Previously, she served at Bresee Foundation leading the organization’s first implementation evaluation assessing program impact using various data systems and tools. Prior to Bresee, Cynthia worked at multiple post-secondary institutions (University of Michigan-Flint, Occidental College, UC Berkeley) promoting college access and success for first generation, underrepresented students and their family members, a passion developed through her own experiences as a participant in college access and success programs.

Cynthia is committed to inclusive, community-led change and understanding it through data. She is excited about joining the SELA Collaborative and strongly aligns with the collaborative’s goal of attaining collective impact. Cynthia holds a MA from UCLA in Social Research Methodology and a BA from UC Berkeley in Peace and Conflict Studies with a focus on Human Rights and Sustainable Economic Development of Latin America. She currently serves as an active member in the American Evaluation Association and is a proud alumnus of UC Berkeley’s Incentive Awards Program, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Project Evident, Education Pioneers, and Destination College Advising Corps. She feels honored and humbled to join the SELA team. Send Cynthia an email

Luis Velasquez – Communications Coordinator

Luis Velasquez is a communications coordinator in the Los Angeles area who uses his skills to help organizations create effective long-term communications strategies and execute those strategies with compelling content and design. A graduate of Cal State University Long Beach, Luis earned his Bachelor of Arts in English Rhetoric and Composition degree in 2015 and a Technical and Professional Communication Certificate in 2016. After graduating from CSULB, he transitioned to work in a local non-profit organization as part of the team that created and executed the organization’s internal and external communications strategies. Luis also has experience in donor relations, gift processing, and web development. Along the way, Luis developed a passion for using technology to streamline and improve workflows and processes. In addition to communications, his professional interests include web development, programming and helping organizations that strive to positively impact underserved communities. Luis was born and raised in the Southeast LA area and still resides there. He is proud to be joining an organization dedicated to uplifting communities like his own. He looks forward to helping SELA grow and continue to empower the Southeast LA community. Send Luis an email.

Arabel M. Hernandez – Administrative Assistant

Arabel Hernandez brings over 15 years of Administrative support to the SELA Collaborative. Arabel previously worked in the non-profit sector for 12 years with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund as a Program Coordinator. During her time as NALEO, Arabel provided administrative support and providing logistical assistance for NALEO’s Policy Institutes and Summits on Education or Health. Additionally, Arabel provided support for the NALEO Annual Conference. Arabel is passionate and committed to the non-profit sector and serving the community. Send Arabel an email.


“Working with the SELA Collaborative has been a rich and unique experience. Every moment meeting, planning, and engaging communities is an opportunity for learning and growing.”