The leadership team for Community Council of Idaho, Inc. is composed of the agency’s directors and executive management. Together, along with the CEO, they strive to continue to move the agency forward.
Ruben Lugo, Chief Operating Officer
Ruben Lugo grew up in a very rural area of eastern Oregon but is originally from Houston, Texas. He has been working with CC Idaho for nearly 20 years, and was promoted to Deputy Director in late 2014, now COO. Before that, he held several positions within the Migrant & Seasonal Head Start and Accounting departments. He has worked in the field of early childhood education and child care for over 25 years in multiple states. Before coming to CCIdaho, Ruben worked for the Maricopa County Head Start in the Phoenix metropolitan area. He attributes much of what he has learned about serving children and the role of families and communities in supporting their growth to his employment there as a Homebase Visitor.
Elisha Suldan, Chief Financial Officer
Director of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start
Jennie is a former Head Start parent who moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico. She has a B.A. in Business Administration from Universidad del Este in Puerto Rico and two Master’s Degrees; one in Early Childhood Education and the other in Educational Leadership from Boise State University. Jennie is a k-12 Certified Teacher with a Spanish endorsement. She is also a trainee in the Danielson Framework Training, a method used to mentor Teachers in order to learn new and strengthen skills. Jennie has been married to Robert Dowell for 10 years and they have four children; Carl, Carlos, Lydia and Jeremy. She has worked in early childhood education for over 12 years. Before coming to CC Idaho, Jennie worked for Falcon Ridge Public Charter School. There, she taught Spanish to Elementary and Middle School Students, was a WIDA coordinator and Title 1 and ELL student support. Jennie also started an Athletic Program at Falcon Ridge. She worked and still is their Athletic Director and is the Head Coach of the Volleyball and Girls Basketball teams. Before working at Falcon Ridge, Jennie worked at Riverstone International School as a Dual Language (Spanish) Preschool Teacher, was the Head Coach of the Riverstone Volleyball Middle School team, and coordinated the Spanish Immersion after school program, Club Amigos. During the Summer, she traveled with Students, led and coordinated a Spanish, Community Service, and Culture Immersion Trips for them. She has been to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. While there her group visited, served, and helped orphanages and schools with basic needs. Jennie’s passion has always been working with young children and their families. She also worked at Friends of Children and Families Head Start and Early Head Start (FOCAF). At FOCAF, she worked as an interpreter for the Policy Council, Assistant Teacher, Bus Monitor, Spanish Translator for Family Advocates, and substitute for Family Educators and teachers. She also worked as a Classroom Behavior Management Support. While working at FOCAF, she interviewed Spanish speaking families and wrote a book about Family Involvement; “Involving Mexican-American Families in their children’s education, A Handbook for Early Childhood Educators”. The handbook includes an extended research of the barriers families faced in the U.S. and in Idaho, their cultural values, suggestions for teachers from Hispanic families, and resources for educators in how to involved families in their children’s education. Jennie is very outgoing with a strong love for children and great respect for Teachers. She loves to coach sports, to travel, to watch Netflix and to drink Coffee! She is excited to be part of the great family at CC Idaho family!
Autumn Blewett, Human Resource Director
Korene Gonzalez, Director of Employment and Training
Arnold Cantu, Clinic Administrator
Has been working for the Community Council of Idaho for 5 years now as the Clinic Administrator, prior to that he worked for the State of Idaho for 23 years as a counselor for the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Arnold attended the University of Alabama for three years and completed his degree in Human Resources and Training Development at Idaho State University. He went on to complete his Masters in Counseling at Western Washington University. He recently completed the Executive Training program in Health Care Administration at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
Little known fact: He collects antique sports books.
Brandy S. Perez, Staff Attorney
Brandy S. Perez is the Program Director and attorney for Familias Unidas, a non-profit immigration legal services provider located in Caldwell, Idaho. Brandy was born in Santa Ana, California, but moved to the Oklahoma- Arkansas area when she was in middle school. She graduated from Hugo High School in Hugo, Oklahoma in 1997 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 2002. Until 2010, Brandy worked as a probation and parole officer in Fort Smith, Arkansas, specializing in the supervision of adult sex offenders. As a second-generation immigrant, Brandy already had an interest in immigration law, but her interactions with the immigrant community in Fort Smith pushed her to continue her education so that she could work more closely with them. After moving with her family to Idaho, Brandy decided to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer, graduating with a Juris Doctor from Concordia University School of Law in 2018. While in law school, Brandy participated in the Concordia University School of Law Immigration Clinic and provided pro bono legal services to immigrant families through Project LAURA, a nonprofit serving families seeking asylum through the immigration court. While a third-year law student, Brandy was hired by Community Council of Idaho to start an immigration program, which became Familias Unidas. For the first year, Brandy provided immigration legal services to low-income families in Canyon County as a Department of Justice Accredited Representative until she was admitted to the Idaho State Bar in October 2018. Brandy is a member of the American Immigration Lawyer Association and practices immigration law exclusively. Brandy’s focus is on the reunification of families through direct representation at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Immigration Court. Brandy enjoys spending time with her husband and five beautiful children, reading, and knitting.
Sonnay Alvarez, Communications Specialist
Sonnay Alvarez has lived in Idaho for 11 years and plans to be here for many more. She currently lives in Boise. She loves the atmosphere and all the things Boise has to offer. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a certificate in Public Relations and Dispute Resolution from Boise State University in 2018. She knew she wanted to be in the Communications field ever since her second year of high school. Her passion for community involvement began through an earth sustainability project. Now she’s proud to be part of a passionate team to help enrich the lives of Latinos throughout Idaho.
“When I was younger I was enrolled in Head Start. Now I’m able to give back to a program that helped my family when we needed it most “
When she’s not at work, she enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, young son and loving dogs.
Merissa Douglas, Occupancy & Compliance Specialist
Merissa Douglas is an Occupancy and Compliance Specialist with over thirteen years in compliance while working in the tax and finance arena. She received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2009. Merissa specializes in affordable housing and housing management with an emphasis in economic and community development and is working on her certifications in Rental Housing Development Finance and Housing Development Finance. Merissa, though born in Virginia, considers herself an Idaho native as she spent most of her childhood and adulthood in Idaho, particularly the Treasure Valley.
Merissa has been married for over 17 years and has two children. She lives in rural Idaho where she raises chickens and rabbits. She also loves graphic and website design and giving back to her community. She’s always ready for a fundraiser.