Our Team

Board President

Brenda Quiñonez-Cortés, LCSW, MSW

Born in México and raised in Los Angéles, Brenda places value in family and comunidad.  She is a mother, wife, and activist. Committed to generating change in the field of mental and behavioral health, Brenda joined efforts with EPdE founder Lynn Haynes, in creating a pathway of equity and  leadership for culturally and linguistically diverse students and professionals. Brenda received Bachelor Degrees in Sociology, Spanish, and Chicano Studies from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She later graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Brenda’s professional experience in the last 20 years extends to field counseling, medical social work, program management and various realms of non-profit work and clinical mental health settings, independent contract work in school-based therapy, private practice  and more recently, training and consulting in cultural/linguistic proficiency, anti-oppression, and racial healing.



Board Secretary

Rachel Bowen, LCSW

While born in New Mexico, Rachel’s upbringing in southeast Asia propelled her dedication to cross-cultural and global issues leading her to work and volunteer on youth leadership, community development, and public health issues in Latin America and the US. Rachel earned BA degrees from the University of Oregon in International Studies, Spanish, and Sociology, and went on to receive a Masters of Social Work from the University of Denver. She has since worked with immigrant families as a therapist for survivors of domestic violence, as a social worker in the public schools, and in school and community-based mental health. Rachel values teaming with others who share her deep commitment to social justice.

Board Treasurer

Kate Gibbons, LISW, LCSW, PhD

Kate has been in New Mexico for ten of her twenty-threeyears as a systems-change consultant. She is known for achieving organizational and system transformation through her ability to build relationships with a broad range of audiences. Kate’s work includes grant implementation and initiatives, capacity building, qualitative measurement, leadership coaching, organizational development, and planning. She has worked at the state and national levels in quality and system change utilizing design and co-creating approaches, as well as with several state human service agencies, behavioral health providers, professional associations, universities, and private companies to develop systems and grow employee leadership skills.

Kate has a Ph.D. in Organizational Systems and independent clinical licenses in Social Work. Kate especially enjoys co-facilitating along side peer workers, youth, and young adults to build relationship and leadership skills. Kate lives in the South Valley of Albuquerque and is excited to apply her own leadership point of view at El Puente de Encuentros.

Board Member

Azul Cortés, MA

Azul (Huasteca/Tepehuan) is the Director of Heritage Languages at Dual Language Education of NM (DLeNM). With Master’s degrees in Bilingual, Secondary and Special Education, Azul is passionate about language, community and cultural identity. He is currently a Doctoral Student at UNM’s Language Literacy and Sociocultural Studies with his research focusing on the maintenance and revitalization of the heritage language through cultural Identity. Azul has worked as a Clinical Research Educator at the University of New Mexico’s College of Education Elementary Education in the area of Teacher Preparation and in numerous indigenous communities with linguistically and diverse youth through the Bureau of Indian Education and in México. He continues to work with grassroots organizations, La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque and Homeboy Industries in East Los Angeles who dedicate services to adjudicated youths and young adults. Current work highlights language maintenance and revitalization efforts through an indigenous lens that centers culture and language as the voice of the community and the land in which they reside.

Board Member

N. Patricia Fernández, PhD, MPH

Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, she later moved to the Midwest, then El Paso, and finally Albuquerque, where she calls home. Advocacy came accidentally to Dr. Fernandez’ as she grew up alongside her two sisters who are deaf. At an early age she learned invaluable lessons on the difficulty of navigating different systems. In her journey coming into the United States and other countries, she has had the opportunity to be involved in roles that put to use these advocacy skills. She is passionate about the work of health disparities reduction and culture integration advocacy and enjoys providing competency based and trauma informed/focused training and supervision. She holds a PhD in Health Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center, and she completed her Re-specialization in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. She is the Psychologist Manager at ASAP and UNM Psychiatric Center at UNMH and serves as a Clinical Psychologist and Training Coordinator for these sites.

Board Member

Mika Tari, LMSW

Mika was born in Korea and was adopted by a second generation Ukraine. She came to the US at approximately 4 years old and grew up in Long Island, NY.  As an Asian child in a homogenous, affluent area Mika’s childhood was challenging to say the least. She was inspired to pursue a degree in a field of social justice. Mika attained her Masters degree in Social Work from New Mexico State University and since then has lived in New Mexico for more than 23 years. Her career journey includes 15 years in group homes serving individuals with IDD and on the autism spectrum. She then pursued work in the non-profit sector and dedicated years in the Medical Assistance Division.  Most recently she has been in state government with the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) and  the last five years with the Behavioral Health Services Division (BHSD) as a Deputy Director and  briefly as the Interim Director. Mika currently serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Social Work- New Mexico


Lynn Haynes, LCSW

The creation of El Puente de Encuentros was motivated by my years of experience working in the behavioral/mental health field with New Mexico’s underserved populations. That span included working for New Mexico’s Children Youth and Families Department, working for a non-profit mental health organization specializing in trauma, and, in private practice, as an independent contractor and consultant to public entities. The experience that prompted the founding of El Puente came while offering outpatient therapy in Albuquerque’s public school system.

While the schools primarily served students of color, administration, teachers and clinical support were predominantly Caucasian. Clearly, bridging this divide, both culturally and linguistically, was key to achieving effective clinical interventions. With the help and support of many people, it was Jorge García, Senior Program Manager at the University of New Mexico’s El Centro de La Raza, who inspired me to take action. The many professionals who joined in planning and implementing programs have been a blessing. El Puente owes its existence to the selfless work of so many who share the desire to be agents of change.




Kee J.E. Straits, PhD



Born Quechua (Indigenous) in Perú and raised in the United States, Kee is a Clinical/Community Psychologist. She received her BA in psychology from Williams College, her MA in special education from the University of New Mexico, and her PhD in psychology from Utah State University. Dr. Straits is the sole proprietor of Tinkuy Life Community Transformations, LLC. Through her business, she offers consultation to schools, organizations and communities, trainings, evaluation, and direct clinical services. In her career, she strives to achieve health equity in Native American and Latino communities, improve the effectiveness of mental health systems that serve youth, and increase the number of competent Native and Latino health professionals.


Jorge García Atilano, M.A., EMBA

robertBorn and raised in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Jorge grew up in Chicago, moving to New Mexico in 1997. He holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Chicano Studies and Latin American Studies. In addition, he holds a Master’s degree in Education (Language, Literacy and Socio-Cultural Studies) and an MBA from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management. Jorge is Senior Program Director at UNM’s El Centro de la Raza. His research and entrepreneurial activities are focused on creating initiatives and projects that support the social, cultural, political and economic development of local and indigenous communities.