Karen Vallejos Corrales, Executive Director Karen is a dedicated public servant and experienced advocate for the undocumented community. She is motivated to help undocumented youth pursue empowerment through higher education and activism, having experienced first-hand the frustrations of being an undocumented student. After witnessing the 2010 collapse of the federal DREAM Act, she was one of the founding members of the Dream Project, Inc. Today, as the Executive Director, she has the responsibility of strategically managing the organization’s work to fulfill its mission. Karen received her Juris Doctorate from Washington & Lee Law School and previously worked for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. Throughout law school, Karen found ways to integrate her passion for immigrant rights with her legal studies. She traveled with a team of volunteers to Tijuana, Mexico to provide legal aid to the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis at the border and worked as a student attorney at the W&L Immigrant Rights Clinic serving the Shenandoah Region of Virginia. Additionally, Karen spent her first summer as a law clerk for the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia and spent her 2nd summer as a law clerk for a Garcia Hernandez Sawhney LLP, a law firm specializing in education law.
Prior to law school, Karen served as a program administrator with NovaSalud.Inc. She graduated from Southwestern Adventist University with a double major in International Business and History.
Bookkeeper & Administrative Associate
Cecilia works as the administrative associate and bookkeeper for the Dream Project, providing support for all programs offered by the Dream Project. Additionally, Cecilia manages all the bookkeeping tasks for the organization. Mrs. Morales was born in Bolivia, where she studied law and accounting. She is the mother of two ‘Dreamers’ and she joined the Dream Project in 2014. She is motivated to help young people make their dreams of a professional career come true.
Mentoring Program Coordinator
Patricia Sanguinetti has more than 25 years of counseling experience working with culturally diverse populations. She has been a passionate advocate for excellence and equality in education for all students. She is responsible for promo ting, planning and implementing career and college activities and assessing and interpreting student’s needs to provide them with the b est educational opportunities. In addition to her counseling work, Ms. Sanguinetti has been the principal of the Escuela Argentina Inc. for the past eig ht years. The Escuela Argentina provides instruction in Spanish every Saturday to more than 400 bicultural students from Pre - K to 12th grade.
In the past year, Ms. Sanguinetti has been coordinating the Dream Project Mentori ng Program, supporting seniors with their post - secondary education plans and the understanding of the college application process, financial aid, and available options
Program Manager and Systems Developer
Carlos has provided the Dream Project with ample support in project and program management and data analysis since January 2019. Carlos graduated in 2018 from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Psychology. Throughout his university career, Carlos has facilitated countless workshops for immigrant youth. Being an immigrant from Colombia, Carlos is very familiar with the
struggles many immigrants face in the U.S. Through his work, Carlos has helped Latinx youth work through issues adapting to the U.S. as well as equip them with tools to become better at communicating to have more fulfilling familial relationships.
Belinda Passafaro joined the Dream Project Board of Directors in August 2016, but stepped into the Case Manager role in 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As the Case Manager, Belinda provides guidance in navigating community resources to Dream Project students and families. In addition, Belinda is also currently serving as the Interim Executive Director until June 30, 2021, while the next Executive Director is identified. Over the past 20 years, she has served in the educational field as a leader, social justice advocate, program director, and consultant. She is the Vice President of Development Without Limits and specializes in professional development, curriculum development, program management and leadership development for non-profit organizations in underserved communities in New York City and in cities across the country.
Belinda is also the Co-Founder and Associate Executive Director of Hermanas SOL, which seeks to empower women of color to achieve personal, professional, and spiritual growth through educational achievement, financial literacy and leadership development within a culturally relevant framework. As a marketplace minister, she also facilitates strategic planning retreats, mentoring opportunities, and serves as a conference presenter for faith-based entities.
Belinda is a graduate of Brooklyn College, of the City University of New York, and has a Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education, and also completed Columbia University’s Middle Management Program at the Not-for-Profit Institute. In May 2013, Belinda graduated from Union Theological Seminary, in New York City, with a Master of Divinity degree with a specialized focus in theology and psychology. She currently resides in Arlington, VA with her husband, Benjamin.
Michele Connelly has more than 25 years of diverse nonprofit leadership and development experience. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and began her professional career as a counselor before transitioning to fundraising and communications. She independently raised more than $35 million in revenue, with an additional $100 million collaboratively for small community-based nonprofits and large national organizations. Michele has served on the board of directors of various community and social justice organizations. In her free time, she enjoys writing, photography, spending time with her niece, and rescuing old dogs. She is thrilled to be joining the team and looking forward to getting to know all of the individuals who have made such a difference in the lives of the Dream Project students and their families.
Liz Laribee joined the Board of the Dream Project in 2021 before transitioning into a position on staff. As the Director of Communications and Student Recruitment, her work includes crafting the message and visual brand for the organization as well as developing engagement strategies for students, educators, coalitions, and organizations across Virginia. Prior to joining the Dream Project, Liz Laribee was a Programs and Partnerships Librarian with Arlington Public Library. In 2022 her team received the County Manager Excellence Award for their work in working with community partners to tell Arlington's story- specifically through the Reecuentro archives initiative to capture Latinx stories, and the Little Saigon walking tour through Clarendon to highlight the Vietnamese immigrant history in that neighborhood. Formerly as an Education Specialist for the Smithsonian Libraries, Liz developed programs designed to create digital access to Smithsonian artifacts and historical books, tailored to diverse audiences.
Before receiving her Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland, Liz was a self-taught artist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While there, Liz founded The MakeSpace Arts Collective, Sprocket Mural Arts, and Dauphin County Lawyers for the Arts. For her arts advocacy work, she received the Spectrum Arts Award, the YWCA Emerging Leader Award, and the title of Artist in Residence for the City of Harrisburg. Her illustration work has appeared in Colonial Comics (Fulcrum, 2018) and Occasionally Accurate Science (Nomadic Press, 2019). For her feminist blog Saved By the bell hooks, she gained mentions and interviews in The New York Times, Slate, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed, ColorLines, and the American Library Association. Her work was the subject of "The Subversive Remix Rhetoric of Saved By The Bell Hooks" by social movement scholar Kyle Larson.
She lives in Arlington, happily.