Who We Are


Julio E. López Varona

State Director

Born in the “island of enchantment” Julio received his undergraduate degree and Juris Doctor at the University of Puerto Rico. He later received his LLM on International and Comparative Law at Tulane Law School and received training in arbitration and conflict resolution at Humboldt University in Berlin. After law school, he served as a law clerk for the Orleans Public Defenders and helped develop a system of advocacy dockets that ensured that recently arrested citizens were properly represented. Later on, Julio worked with the New Orleans Independent Police Monitor to create a mediation program between citizens and the police. In 2012, he moved to Connecticut where he became a union organizer and helped secure a historic contract that guaranteed pay raises, a paid time of fund and training opportunities to 7,000 home care workers. Julio went on to lead a membership campaign that increased home care membership in the union from less than 5% to 35% in a year. Julio is the founding organizer of Make the Road CT and has helped the organization go from monthly meetings with 10-15 members to a thriving organizing hub with 5 active campaigns and a growing membership base with regular weekly meetings where 30-40 members eat, share and plan the next steps of their campaigns.

Julio can be reached at: (787) 612-6422 or julio.lopez@maketheroadct.org

Barbara López

Lead Organizer 

Originally from California, Barbara is a first generation American. Barbara learned about the importance of her community from her Guatemalan parents, who came to the United States in search for a better life. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Barbara is currently enrolled in a Master of Science in Labor Studies degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Deeply invested in social justice, Barbara organized with Service Employees International Union locals in CT, MA, RI, MN and CA for 4 years. There Barbara was able to empower thousands of health care workers, home care workers and child care providers to form unions and secure contracts. At Make the Road CT, Barbara formed a parent committee and organized them to launched their first successful campaign, In Our Language Please. Barbara continues to strengthen the parent committee to implement their recommendations and to fight for better opportunities for the children in Bridgeport’s education system. As the lead organizer, Barbara will continue to strategize, support and implement campaigns with our members to fight for dignity, respect and a quality of life in their community. 

Barbara can be reached at: (203) 520-3144 or barbara.lopez@maketheroadct.org 

Mary Elizabeth Smith 

Development and Programs Organizer

Mary Elizabeth, better known as M.E., was born in New Haven, CT. She grew up understanding firsthand the struggles of the working poor, when her father lost the family lobstering business and her mother tried to piece together a living wage working three different jobs. When M.E.s mom was not working, she took the kids to volunteer at soup kitchens and to Amistad Catholic Worker in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, there M.E. learned her first lessons in social justice and community activism, lessons that started her on her life’s path. M.E. studied Environmental Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She then pursued her Masters in Human Rights in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Universidad Popular de la Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, an alternative university founded by the Mothers of the Disappeared. She then moved to Bolivia where she spent years 7 working with popular education projects and participatory curriculum design with indigenous communities in the highlands. M.E., returned to New Haven, she landed at Junta for Progressive Action and was integral to strengthening the Adult Education and Advocacy programs. She also developed curriculums and programming around social justice, community defense and know your rights materials. As the Development and Programs Organizer at Make the Road CT, M.E. has the great task of identifying funding to sustain our innovative programs and supporting program development.  

M.E. can be reached at: (475) 238-5682 or mary.smith@maketheroadct.org


Alison Martinez Carrasco

Youth Organizer

Alison migrated from Ecuador to Connecticut when she was four years old with her parents. Growing up in the Hartford County, her youth organizing began in 2012 with CT Students for a Dream. Since then, Alison became committed to promote social change and justice. She became a community organizer and activist that no longer allowed the stigma attached to her immigration status devalue her humanity. In 2013, she continued with C4D as their campus organizer. In 2014, she co-founded the Greater Hartford Region for C4D. There, she facilitated bi-weekly community meetings, held workshops and led a successful administrative and legislative campaign called “Afford to Dream,” to pass legislation that allows more undocumented students to attain higher education in CT. Also, understanding the need for economic justice in her community, she founded the organization’s first ever scholarship committee to fundraise for undocumented immigrant students. As the Youth Organizer at Make the Road CT, Alison will continue to use her knowledge to implement urgency for youth to organize to fight for equity and become the best version of themselves in their communities. Alison’s pronouns are: she/her/hers/ella.

Alison can be reached at: (860) 895-3849 or alison.martinez@maketheroadct.org

Wendy Cárdenas 

Community Organizer 

Wendy was born in Peru and migrated to Connecticut when she was twelve years old with her family. Growing up in the Fairfield County, she saw first hand the struggles that her community faced: lack of language access, affordable healthcare and college access opportunities were limited depending on your immigrant status. Wendy’s first fight was to get access to a quality education for herself and her peers regardless of their immigration status. As a result, she joined CT Students for a Dream where she was part of the organizing that passed the bill that granted undocumented students in-state tuition. This victory and experience, paved the way for Wendy to earn her Associate’s degree in General Studies and Business Administration from Norwalk Community College, and is currently in the process of getting her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Wendy also has a deep passion for affordable and accessible healthcare for the undocumented community and this brought her to work for Building One Community. At Building One Community, Wendy worked with community members to meet with stakeholders, strategize and implement campaigns. She was essential part of creating a parent power committee that fought for public school transparency. As the Community Organizer at Make the Road CT, Wendy has the great task of continuing to identify and mobilize community members to organize for real change.  

Wendy can be reached at: (203) 940-2365 or wendy.cardenas@maketheroadct.org 

Francisco Baires

Community Organizer 

Born in El Salvador, Francisco's family came to the United States when he was a baby because of the violent war that started in the 1970s. They moved to the south Texas border town of Brownsville and growing up en la frontera had life long impacts on Francisco. As Francisco grew up he realized his family was able to flee the war in El Salvador because his mother was born in the U.S. However, Francisco also realized some relatives risked everything to come to the U.S., even if that meant they had to come undocumented. Francisco dedicated his life's work to supporting and empowering immigrant communities. He went to college to study forensic anthropology and while in grad-school, he engaged in local efforts to stop anti immigrant legislation while helping identify the human remains of migrants who died crossing the border in Arizona. Francisco has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Masters of Arts in Anthropology. Francisco then moved to Illinois and began working as a community organizer supporting local immigrant's in building their power. Together they stopped their county from participating in the "Secure Communizes" detention / deportation program, they won drivers' licenses for the undocumented and they developed a DACA service team that was the primary DACA support service group in central Illinois. As the Community Organizer of Make the Road CT, Francisco will continue to grow the membership base, foster community realtionships and develop our next community leaders. 

Francisco can be reached at: (520) 991-7151 or francisco.baires@maketheroadct.org 


Luis G. Luna

Worker Organizer 

Luis migrated from Ecuador to Connecticut as a young man with his family. Growing up in the area of New Haven County, Luis saw first hand, many injustices that the immigrant community endured and became invested to fight for justice in the immigrant movement ever since. Luis collaborated with many grass roots organizations to fight against deportations and wage theft in his community. After school, Luis moved to New York for a couple of years where he worked for New York Communities for Change and organized car wash workers. Luis returned to CT, and worked as a certified interpreter for many years in different spaces. Some highlights as an interpreter have been working at the United Nations and Yale New Haven Hospital. Luis enjoys cultivating his creativity through his documentary photography and has received years of training to sharpen his skill. Another way his creativity shines, is being a radio host every third Thursday of the month for WPKN, there he speak on current issues such immigration, politics, education, and plays eclectic music. As the Worker Organizer of Make the Road CT, Luis is now in charge of building a worker committee that will push legislation to improve the scheduling practices of workers in CT in a way that helps them support themselves and their families.

Luis can be reached at: (203) 440-6304 or luis.luna@maketheroadct.org 

Mirka Dominguez-Salinas 

Community Organizer 

Mirka was born in Mexico and migrated to Connecticut at the age of six. Raised in New Haven County, she saw how educational and income inequality and language barriers affected her community. She started learning about social justice when she joined the Urban Education Fellows at Southern Connecticut State University. With the group, she worked on different service projects in New Haven Public Schools and learned about culturally responsive pedagogy. From there, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Science, Interdisciplinary Studies in English and Social Studies from Southern Connecticut State University. Her organizing work began with CT Students for a Dream where she became empowered and inspired to fight for her community. As the New Haven Region organizer, she held community and campus meetings, met with campus leaders, and gathered support in the fight for equal access to higher education for immigrant youth. As the Community Organizer of Make the Road CT, she hopes to support and empower members to fight for their rights and to make the path for the generations to come.

Mirka can be reached at: (203) 213-7017 or mirka.dominguez@maketheroadct.org 

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