2023 Executive Board
Enmanuel Mercedes, PhD, President

Dr. Enmanuel Mercedes, Ph.D. is a licensed counseling psychologist with over 15 years of clinical experiences. Dr. Mercedes is licensed in New York and New Jersey. He is the founder and CEO of E. Mercedes Consulting and Services, LLC, out of Caldwell, New Jersey.  This company’s mission is to provide mental health solutions to individuals and organizations seeking to improve their mental wellness and promote personal and professional growth. Besides his work as clinician, Dr. Mercedes is a wellness and mental health advocate, speaker, and thought leader on the important of mental health and emotional mastery in the various domains of our lives. This includes helping organizations create an environment that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion, through the fostering of psychological safety and emotional wellbeing.

Dr. Mercedes is particularly passionate about increasing access to mental health services for historically underserved communities. This is evidenced through his work at Zufall Health Center, a community health center in New Jersey, where he assists in coordinating integrated behavioral health care to a largely immigrant community. Furthermore, Dr. Mercedes is the co-coordinator of the Integrated Care Workplace Development Program at Zufall, assisting in areas development, implementation, training and supervision of the behavioral health and medical team members.

On a personal note, Dr. Mercedes was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He is a first-generation college student and the first to complete a doctoral degree. He obtained his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Seton Hall University. Currently, he is serving on the advisory board of the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute at Seton Hall and received the 2018 Avance Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership and service.

Dr. Mercedes lives with his wife and two sons in West Caldwell, NJ. He is a big foody, loves dancing, is training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and has been practicing mindfulness meditation for over 10 years. 

Vanessa De Jesus Guzman, LPC, NCC, President-Elect

Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 20 years of experience working with children and families as a certified teacher, school counselor, in-home clinician, group facilitator, and now as a licensed therapist. Vanessa obtained a Bachelor of Science in Education and Psychology and a Masters in Counseling Education, both from The College of New Jersey.

Vanessa is the owner and CEO of Free to Be Mindful - a private practice located in Ridgefield, New Jersey - focused on providing mental health therapy and mindfulness education to mothers, children and educators. Her work with mothers continues as the founder of Amiga Moms which empowers 21st century mothers through educational events and a supportive network, helping them live lives with ease of mind and peace of heart.

The focus on mindful living, mental health and personal growth continues in Vanessa’s work as the host of the Free to Be Mindful Podcast and through professional and personal development for educators and parents. 

Personally, Vanessa is the daughter of hardworking Dominican parents, wife to a supportive husband, and mom to a funny little boy and goldendoodle puppy. Vanessa appreciates making impactful change as a member of various professional organizations, is a Peloton enthusiast, and enjoys on 2 salsa dancing.



Azara Santiago Rivera, PhD., Past President

Dr. Santiago Rivera has had a distinguished career in the academy as an administrator and tenured faculty, and as a professional association leader. She served as associate dean in the College of Education, University of Albany and Dean of Academic Affairs with The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago campus. She assumed leadership roles at three institutions, establishing and fortifying their Counseling and Counseling Psychology programs. Among her outcomes of work as an administrator were initiatives to advance early career faculty with a focus on publishing, teaching strategies, and tenure and promotion processes.

Her publications and research interests include multicultural competencies in the counseling profession, bilingual therapy, Latinx adults and depression, and the impact of environmental contamination on the biopsychosocial well-being of Native Americans.  Her current work involves assessing depression in Latinx adults and the challenges associated with the use of translated measures from English to Spanish. She is a coauthor of 3 books, 55 articles, and has given over 120 presentations/workshops at local, national, and international conferences, universities, and organizations. 

As a servant leader, Dr. Santiago Rivera has assumed many roles to advance inclusion and social justice; she is a pioneer in these settings. She served as Vice-President of the Latino Interest Network of the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), and the first President of Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ) within the American Counseling Association. She is a past- President of the National Latinx Psychological Association, and Founding Editor of the association’s prestigious Journal of Latinx Psychology (APA journal). She is also the immediate past president of the Latino Mental Health Association of New Jersey. She is the Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) and will become the Chair effective July 1, 2023.

Dr. Santiago Rivera received her undergraduate degree and master’s degree from Interamerican University, San Juan, Puerto Rico and her PhD in Counseling from Wayne State University. She is a Fellow of Divisions 45 and 17 of APA. In 2014, Dr. Santiago-Rivera received the APA Presidential Citation for outstanding contribution to the profession. Her personal interests include skiing, golf, and family time with nietas and nietos.



Angela P. Vargas, PhD, Treasurer 
Dr. Vargas is a Licensed Psychologist in the States of New Jersey and of New York.  Dr. Vargas graduated from Fordham University with a Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology.  She completed a Pre-Doctoral Clinical Internship at Lincoln Hospital (Bronx, NY) and Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House, Hackensack University Medical Center (Hackensack, NJ).  Throughout her trajectory in the psychology field, Dr. Vargas has also been actively involved in research and writing that has sought to understand the interplay between various cultural factors and individual development.  At present and in addition to private practice work, Dr. Vargas practices in a NYC hospital where she engages in clinical services and supervision/teaching for psychology trainees. Dr. Vargas has extensive education, training, and experience in the field of mental health across the lifespan, with communities of diverse backgrounds and resources, and within inpatient and outpatient settings.  Specialty areas include treatment of mood disorders and trauma via individual, group, and family therapies, as well as psychological assessment (cognitive, academic, forensic, and personality) and comprehensive evaluations.  Dr. Vargas particularly enjoys working with adolescents and individuals navigating major life transitions and issues surrounding one’s identity (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation). 

Yvette Ramos, LCSW, Secretary

Yvette Ramos, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of New Jersey & Florida. Yvette obtained her BA in Psychology with a minor in Women Studies from Montclair State University. She obtained her Master of Social Work, Clinical Concentration with an emphasis in Trauma Among Women and Children from Rutgers University.

Currently, Yvette is a corporate therapist and the Latinx ERG Member Engagement Chair for Headspace Health, Manager of Memberships for Corporate Social Work Collective, and owns her own psychotherapy private practice, Path To Rise, LLC.

Much of Yvette’s current work is centered on the mental health and wellbeing of corporate employees through an intersectional lens. Through her work as the Latinx ERG Co-Chair she engages employees in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives within her organization.  

Yvette’s career also includes working with 1st generation students, underrepresented youth, undocumented families, violence-affected communities, and underserved individuals in corporate, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and school settings.  

In her spare time, Yvette enjoys creating mental health content on social media to de-stigmatize mental health, increase accessibility for success, and build community.

Jessenia Rivera, LPC, NCC, Early Career Professional

Jessenia Rivera is a licensed and board certified counselor with 8 years of experience working
with young adults, adolescents, and children. She obtained both her B.A in Psychology and M.A.
in counseling from Kean University. Jessenia is the founder of The Prosper Foundation, a non-
profit organization that provides free therapeutic support and mental health education to youth in
the community. Jessenia is the owner of Mind Wealth, LLC located in Eatontown, NJ., which
provides performance coaching and individual therapy sessions. Jessenia is passionate about
bringing awareness and reducing mental health stigma in her community. Jessenia enjoys
reading, writing, and traveling.


Apollonia Pinzas, BA, Student Representative

Apollonia Pinzas is a 4th year graduate student at Felician University in the Master of Arts
Counseling Psychology Program. She is employed at the Division of Child Protection and
Permanency as an intake worker in Hudson county.  As a first-generation Latina Apollonia is
passionate about working with displaced families, and to provide safe spaces for them. Also, she
is passionate about providing education on mental health to the Latinx community because of the
stigma associated with mental illness. She has 12 years of experience working with children and
families at nonprofit and state levels. Apollonia has learned how to navigate the mental health
system, medical care system, and how to provide support to children and their families so they
can excel, especially individuals who are undocumented. She brings knowledge of the Children
System of Care in New Jersey, personal experience of being a first-generation Latina, as well
passion and ambition for education and mental health.