Jason Ortiz, President and Chair of the Board
Born in New London Connecticut to Puerto Rican parents(Añasco y Caguas), Jason was elected President of the Connect Puerto Rican Agenda at the first Public Assembly in June of 2017. After graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Public and Community Engagement, Jason has organized for justice on numerous issues with a number of state and national non-profits.
Jason has moved from Connecticut to Puerto Rico twice (Santurce y Río Piedras), with the express purpose of better understanding the struggles the island is facing, in addition to learning how to help the movements that are building the Puerto Rico of tomorrow. Knowing his family in Añasco would be directly affected by the coming government cuts, he became committed to working toward long terms solutions for Puerto Rico.
He currently resides in Hartford and works for the Hartford City Council as Executive Assistant to Councilwoman and Minority Leader Wildaliz Bermudez.
Elmer Rivera-Bello, Vice President
Elmer, who was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, is a first generation “Boricua” born to parents from Ponce and Orocovis, Puerto Rico. He is a Husband and father to four beautiful women who inspire him to always be at his best. He is a Real Estate Broker-Investor with over 20 years of experience in Investment Sales within the CT – NY corridor, who enjoys a good Café con Leche, Cigar, and poetry in his spare time.
From a very young age Elmer has experienced firsthand the unequal treatments that have been perpetuated against himself and his fellow Puertorriqueñ@s both stateside and on the Island. He had, prior to joining CT-PRA, made it his mission to strengthen, educate, advocate, and struggle for the purposes of preserving our culture and identity, challenge stereotypes and misinformation, and address the ills that have plagued the people of Puerto Rico as a result of colonialism.
With his appointment to the CT-PRA Executive Board he hopes to reinforce his prior efforts at a statewide level, create a bridge between the diaspora and the island, and most importantly UNIFY his people. One People, One Voice, One Agenda!
Elmer is an Alumni of Albertus Magnus College and holds an AA degree. He is currently pursuing a BS in Finance and aspires to pursue an MBA at the Yale School of Management.
"Other famous men (women), those of much talk and few deeds, soon evaporate. Action is the dignity of greatness." -Jose Marti
Yanira Rios Cruz, Treasurer
Stephanie Mercado-Irizarry, Secretary
Stephanie Mercado-Irizarry is a first-year graduate student pursuing a M.A. in Latino and Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut. She received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico in 2014. Her current research includes the study of unstable employment and the displacement of communities through neo-liberal policies, how it leads to the expulsion of the population, and new forms of colonialism in Puerto Rico. Stephanie analyzes the crisis of the last decade through an interdisciplinary lens, where she analyzes how this social and political crisis is narrated and discussed through literature.
Stefanie was a primary organizer in getting the University of Connecticut Graduate Student Senate to pass a resolution in support of the UPR student strikes.
Julian Cook, Digital Media and Communications Director
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Julian completed his bachelor’s in Foreign Languages and Literature with a concentration in Spanish and a minor in Sociology from Frostburg State University. During his time at Frostburg State, he studied abroad at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Campus Monterrey) in Mexico. In addition to his exchange program, Julian voluntarily taught English classes to pre-school teachers and did community service in areas of need. He also served as the president to Frostburg’s, then, newly revived Latin American Student Organization (LASO). Upon graduation, Julian was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Connecticut in Storrs to complete a master’s degree in Spanish Studies.
As a graduate student, Julian was as a Spanish Teaching Assistant, Discussion Instructor for an Introduction to Latin American Studies course, a member of the Graduate Students of Color Association, and a mentor in the university’s African-American and Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Centers.
Currently, Julian is a Spanish teacher at Windham High School in Willimantic, CT., where he is playing a role in changing the climate of the school and its surrounding community to one that is safe and welcoming to all persons living and learning in the district. As he reclaims and embraces his Afro-Latinidad, Julian seeks to use his platform with the CT Puerto Rican Agenda to fight against tribulations and celebrate the triumphs of Puerto Ricans on the island and living in the diaspora here in Connecticut.