“Super Estrellas” Spotlight Series

Michelle Gonzales-Lopez

Senior Manager | Development

Michelle Gonzales-Lopez is the granddaughter of immigrants and the daughter of entrepreneurs.  Her nonprofit journey began in 2000 working in both public health and fundraising. She has a passion for fundraising and serving as a conduit for the organization through the community events to the public. She feels very fortunate to be able to relate to people of color in the community when they attend Lung Association events. Being so close to the Mexican border and having a high Latino population to serve, it is necessary to have someone who can speak the language, understands cultural taboos and be a community connector. She began working with the Lung Association in February of 2022 as the Senior Development Manager in the San Diego market and believes that her opportunity to work with volunteers is a reward and is grateful for all it brings. 

Rebecca Padilla, BA, CTTS

National Manager | Tobacco Programs

Rebecca Padilla is proud of her Hispanic heritage. She grew up in and still lives in the Chile Capital of the World— beautiful New Mexico. Rebecca grew up in the village of Tortugas in southern New Mexico, but now lives in Albuquerque, with her husband, son, daughter and three German Shepherds. Like many Hispanics, Rebecca grew up in a multi-generational home filled with lots of love, laughter and amazing memories. Rebecca’s passion for lung health stems from losing both of her grandparents to lung disease. Rebecca had severe asthma as a child and remembers her family trying several remedios to help control her asthma— from limpias, to miel, café, aceite de zarrillo and even a chihuahua. However, nothing helped as much as reducing exposure to second-hand smoke and a great routine of self-care, including regular doctor visits and the use of a controller medication. Rebecca is passionate about health equity and promoting the system-level changes that directly impact health outcomes and improve access to culturally competent care. Rebecca has worked for the Lung Association since 2015 and serves as the National Manager for Tobacco Programs. Rebecca serves as a cessation programming content expert and manages a national project that offers technical assistance to State, Territorial and Local Tobacco Control Programs, health systems and community partners to further health systems change efforts that integrate evidence-based tobacco use dependency treatment in clinical and community health settings, as part of a multi-year cooperative agreement with the CDC. Rebecca advises public health professionals and health systems staff on proven-effective action steps to implement activities and initiatives that result in measurable quality improvements. 

Melissa Ramos

Manager | Clean Air Advocacy for Arizona and Nevada

Melissa leads the Lung Association’s work on clean air and climate change policy in Nevada and Arizona, focusing on sustainable transportation and renewable energy policies. She has led the charge as the public health voice throughout the Clean Cars Nevada initiative, and other local climate action planning efforts. As a first-generation Latina graduate, she advocates for equitable climate solutions for all, especially historically underserved communities. Melissa received both her Master of Public Administration, and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Mariela Ruacho

Manager | Clean Air Advocacy for California

Mariela works on clean air regulations and legislation in Sacramento, California. She has been with the Lung Association for a year engaging with regulators, key decision-makers, and health organizations to strengthen clean air policies that improve the health of Californians, especially frontline communities. Her passion for clean air came from growing up in South Los Angeles, one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the most polluted cities in the country, living near a freeway and the Inglewood Oil Field. Mariela and her family members have experienced first-hand the impacts of pollution in her community by developing asthma. She has advocated for clean air regulations such as zero-emission landscaping equipment, health protective clean air standards, and most recently pushing for stronger standards for zero-emission passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks.

Maria Vanegas Zea

National Assistant Vice President | Human Resources

Maria Vanegas-Zea is currently the National Assistant Vice President, Human Resources.  Maria was born in Ecuador and came to the US when she was 10 years old. She graduated salutatorian from Brandeis High School in New York and went on to study Business Administration at Marist College, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. Maria holds both the SHRM-SCP (Society for Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional) and SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certifications. Maria joined the American Lung Association as an Associate of Human Resources in 2000 where she developed her professional career. During this time, Maria provided expertise and counsel to local Lung Association executives on employee relations matters, reorganizations and during merger process. She led the HR function through the nationwide merger, developing policies and practices and consolidating benefits for the newly merged organization. In addition to her HR role, for many years Maria assisted with the translation of Lung Association publications into Spanish. 

Page last updated: November 29, 2023

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