Our Team

Hugo A. Bahamón
Program Development Officer

Hugo A. Bahamón is the Program Development Officer, Hugo works closely with the Assistant Director for Program Development to identify business opportunities, and design and submit project proposals to the USG and principal donors. Prior to joining Partners, Mr. Bahamón was a Consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank for six years, where he oversaw project development and carried out communication plans in topics related to Culture, Creativity and Innovation, and Community Relations.

He earned a M.A. in World Heritage and Cultural Projects for Development, from the University of Barcelona in Spain, and double B.A. in International Affairs, and Latin American and Hemispheric Studies, with concentrations in International Politics and Development, from the Elliot School at the George Washington University.

A native from Colombia, Mr. Bahamón is passionate about social policy and governance, and international development.

Ukiah Busch
Director, Public Private Partnerships

Ukiah Busch is the Director of Public Private Partnerships at Partners of the Americas, where he oversees the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund and the Study Abroad Diversity Fund, as well as Partners’ annual Higher Education Partnership conference.  In a previous role, Mr. Busch led Partners’ higher education membership strategy and played a key role in building the network of more than 1,800 institutions that currently make up the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Network.  In 2011, Mr. Busch became the first recipient of the Machado “Intrapreneurial” Fellowship for his development of the PartnersCampus Student Chapter initiative, which connects university students at institutions across the Americas for international service and leadership activities.  

In 2010, Mr. Busch served in Ecuador as a legal advisor for immigrants and refugees in the human rights organization, Movilidad Humana.

Mr. Busch earned degrees in Italian, French and Spanish from the University of Georgia and a Masters of International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.

Peggy Carlson
Vice President for Development Programs

Peggy Carlson is the Vice President for Development Programs for Partners of the Americas.  In addition to her role as Senior Director of Agriculture and Food Security, her primary responsibilities are  strengthening Partners’ local field capacity in the Caribbean and raising awareness of Partners’ development programs, as well as overseeing Partners of the Americas' Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program and Haiti Nutrition Security Program, both funded by USAID. Farmer-to-Farmer is a multi-million dollar agricultural development and technical assistance program implemented in the US, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Partners Haiti Nutrition Security Program (NSP) seeks to improve the nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women and young children in 3 geographic-focus corridors in Haiti. Ms. Carlson has more than 22 years of development experience in 21 countries, with a particular focus on agriculture and the environment. She is skilled in the strategic planning, program management, value-chain development, and monitoring and evaluation of both privately and government-funded projects in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Ms. Carlson has expertise in the capacity building of non-governmental organizations, universities, and other groups through training and technical assistance. In addition, she has been trained by the World Bank Institute in a number of areas, including international standards and agro-food trade, export promotion, and market analysis, including using Trade Map and Market Access Map tools developed by the International Trade Center. In the area of information and communication technology, Ms. Carlson has worked to integrate ICT into development projects and is also a computer network administrator.

Ms. Carlson holds a Master of Arts in International Development, with a concentration in Rural and Community Development, from American University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Arts from Furman University, Greenville, S.C., in International Relations.

To find out more about the Haiti NSP Program, click here. To find out more about the Farmer-to-Farmer program, please visit the program blog.


Melissa L. Golladay
Vice President, Education & Global Citizenship

Melissa Golladay is the Vice President of Education & Global Citizenship at Partners of the Americas. She has over 12 years of professional experience working in Latin America and the US on citizen diplomacy, volunteerism, leadership and community development.

As Interim President, Ms. Golladay leads programs that connect volunteers, students, youth, and professionals across borders to collaborate on issues such as workforce development, community-led development, climate change, entrepreneurship, and government transparency. She previously served as Director for Professional Leadership Exchanges and Youth Engagement as well as Program Officer with the Center for Civil Society, where she worked to build the capacity of CSOs and government to increase citizen participation in local decision-making. Ms. Golladay has co-authored four publications on civil society participation in the Inter-American System and case studies of successful programs.

Ms. Golladay is a trained facilitator and has led sessions for more than 900 youth and adults in volunteer management, proposal development, and leadership skills. Ms. Golladay has given presentations at the Youth Service Institute, the Conference on Higher Education and International Volunteer Service, and the National Conference on International Citizen Diplomacy. In addition, Ms. Golladay has planned numerous conferences including the International Youth Ambassador Summit and the Conference on International Volunteering and Higher Education. Ms. Golladay served as the Chair of the Agenda Committee for the 2nd World Summit on Youth Volunteering in 2011. In addition, Ms. Golladay served as mentor and facilitator at the Youth Forum of the Americas preceding Sixth Summit of the Americas in 2012 and led a delegation of youth leaders at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009.

Ms.Golladay serves as Treasurer of the Board for the Building Bridges Coalition, a coalition over 300 organizations, private sector corporations, and universities working to scale up and improve the quality of international service.

She earned a M.A. in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, concentrating in Social Development and a B.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Karen Guzmán
Campus Engagement Officer
(202) 637-6212

Karen Guzmán is the Campus Engagement Officer at Partners of the Americas. She works extensively with Partners’ student chapter network across the Americas, as well as in Colombia, Panama, and Argentina. Student chapters are based in educational institutions and completely led by on-campus students. They expand the Partners Network and grow student leaders through community leadership, civic engagement, volunteerism, and professional development.

Prior to her work at Partners, Karen has had substantial experience in leadership, promoting social justice, mentoring students, and advocating for social issues through organizations such as the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Program (AIME), Pro-Mujer, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, United We Dream, Upward Bound Pre-College Programs, and College and Career Pathways, Inc.

Karen has studied Psychology, Sociology, International Relations, and Human Rights at the University of Sydney and in Florianopolis, Brazil. She graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park with a dual B.A. in Psychology and Sociology and minors in U.S. Latino/a Studies and International Development and Conflict Management.

During her time at the University of Maryland, she led “La Familia,” a mentoring program for first-generation Latino college students, created P.L.U.M.A.S. to advocate for issues affecting the Latino community, led a service-learning trip to Cabarete, Dominican Republic through the Alternative Breaks Program, and helped create and develop two programs: the Behavioral and Social Sciences Global Scholars Program and the Peer Educators Program. Both of these programs are focused on creating cross-cultural understanding and development between students from diverse organizations and communities in order to become positive change agents that are passionate about solving today’s most pressing global and domestic social issues.

Elizabeth Holst
Assistant Director, Program Development & Combating Child Labor

Elizabeth Holst is Assistant Director for Program Development and Combating Child Labor. Ms. Holst started her career at Partners in February 2013 as a Program Officer for Program Development. In December 2015, she began supporting Paraguay Okakuaa, a four-year, multi-million dollar project to support Paraguay in its efforts to reduce the worst forms of child labor and improve labor law compliance and working conditions.

A Minnesota native, Ms. Holst has spent nearly three years living in Latin America. Prior to working at Partners, she served in the Peace Corps as a Community Economic Development volunteer in Paraguay (2010-2012). She holds a Master of Public Administration with a focus on international public service and development from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Camden; and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Ms. Holst is the current president of Friends of Paraguay, Inc. and is an active member of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC.

Penelope Kim
Assistant Director, 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund

Penelope Kim is the Assistant Director for the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund. She has a background in international affairs and international development with a regional focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. Her work and studies abroad have taken her to nearly 30 countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

One of these overseas opportunities was through the Peace Corps, where she served in Costa Rica in 2009-2011 as a Rural Community Development Volunteer working in youth development. Ms. Kim holds a Global Master’s of Arts in International Relations from Webster University through their global program, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, with a European and Asian Concentration, and a Minor in Spanish from Hawai’i Pacific University.

Summar Lyons
Senior Program Officer, Youth Leadership & Higher Education Initiatives

Ms. Lyons leads international youth leadership programming by preparing youth leaders to build mutual understanding between Latin America and the United States and to develop skills that foster long-term commitment to volunteerism and service. Ms. Lyons also oversees the grant competition review process for Higher Education Institutions applying for opportunities through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.

Throughout her professional and academic experience, she has become well-versed in Latin American culture, youth leadership capacity building and international development. Ms. Lyons has had the opportunity to travel through Central America on a study abroad program in Merida, Mexico in 2006 and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica from 2009-2012.

While living in Costa Rica, she served as a project management advisor and youth development liaison in collaboration with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (P.A.N.I.) and the Board of Directors of two Development Associations where she helped implement children’s right and environmental awareness campaigns, youth leadership and life skills workshops and the constructions of a sports court project. Upon her return to the U.S., she was selected to be a Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellow. In this role, she volunteered at Woodrow Wilson High School, D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School and Next Step supporting global studies resource development and English learning initiatives.

She earned a M.A. in International Development from American University’s School of International Service with a concentration in Children and Youth Development and a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from Northwestern University.

Ms. Lyons is deeply passionate about sharing how volunteerism abroad not only has a meaningful impact on improving the lives of others but also has a lasting effect on one’s personal and professional growth. 

Danielle Martin
Senior Finance and Administration Officer

Danielle Martin is a Senior Finance and Administration Officer at Partners of the Americas. She started with Partners as part of the President’s Internship Program in May 2014 working with the Professional Leadership Exchanges team. She now has joined the staff at Partners in October 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Professions and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management with a focus on International Business from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

During her studies in Wisconsin, Ms. Martin has had the opportunity to study abroad twice, once in Costa Rica and another time in Italy. In Costa Rica, she studied at a local school to obtain fluency and better understanding of Spanish. In addition, she spent two weeks living with the BriBri tribe in Costa Rica, whom are an indigenous tribal group located in the southern half of the country near Buenos Aires. During her study abroad in Italy, Ms. Martin had a great introduction to the arts, history, language and foods of the region. She is deeply passionate about international development and volunteerism abroad, and hopes to continue to help others in the Americas throughout her work at Partners.

John McPhail
President & CEO of Partners of the Américas

John is the President & CEO at Partners of the Americas. He brings over 20 years of leadership experience at nonprofit organizations across the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean and is a seasoned expert in partnership building, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement. He is passionate about community development in Latin America and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. After his service, he remained in country for a total of over fifteen years, marrying a Salvadoran doctor and raising their three daughters.​

John brings significant experience as a country and regional director for international nonprofits including Save the Children, World Vision, and Project Concern International. He has held leadership positions on the Boards of numerous local nonprofits and associations in El Salvador, providing operational and strategic direction. He coordinated or co-coordinated  multiple national and regional networks in Central America in health, water & sanitation and agriculture/food security. John received a BSc in Civil Engineering from MIT and a Master's in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign. He is fluent in Spanish and has a working knowledge of French.​

Michael Moscarelli
Director, Agriculture and Food Security
(202) 637-6214

Michael Moscarelli is the Director of Agriculture and Food Security. His primary responsibilities include leading strategic planning and business development efforts in the unit, establishing and maintaining relationships with donors and partners, and supporting the implementation of current programs.

Prior to his work at Partners, Mr. Moscarelli worked on the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Systems team at International Relief and Development, where he managed food security and value chain programs in West Africa and helped develop USAID, USDA, and DFID proposals. He also spent three years working in Ecuador’s highlands and Amazonian region as a Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer in the Peace Corps.

Mr. Moscarelli has expertise in agronomy, horticulture, and farmer-centered research and extension. He holds a Master’s degree in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Mary Washington.

Taylor Nelson
Assistant Director, Communications

Taylor Nelson is the Assistant Director of Communications at Partners of the Americas. While supporting the overall mission and vision of the organization, Taylor works closely with each of Partners’ units to develop communications strategies to increase the visibility of their programs and donors. She has experience with website development, social media outreach, branding, video and print production, Google AdWords, and graphic design.

Prior to joining Partners, Taylor was the Director of Arts and Education at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem. Passionate about using art for social change, she designed and led programs in visual arts, theater and dance. Among puppet shows and West African drumming, Taylor spearheaded the Salem Public Mural Project, a nine-month initiative that empowered Boys and Girls Club youth through leadership development, community engagement and art lessons to celebrate pride in their community.

Taylor’s commitment to community arts stems from her work with ArtCorps as well as Mercado Global in which she designed fair trade capacity building workshops for Mayan artisans in Guatemala. Taylor studied at the Fuji Art School in Italy, El Mundo En Español in Guatemala, and graduated with a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 2009. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University.

Carmen Peña
Director, Program Development

Carmen Peña, a native Colombian, is the Director of Program Development and Program Manager for the EducaFuturo project. Funded by USDOL, EducaFuturo is a multi-million dollar project to combat child labor among vulnerable populations in Ecuador and Panama. Ms. Peña has over four years of experience as a Program Development Officer, implementing outreach strategies, developing new partnerships and programs and responding to funding opportunities that include grants, government solicitations (USAID, DOS and DOL) and corporate foundations. Ms. Peña started at Partners as Field Operations Officer, coordinating and monitoring international development programs in Latin America in compliance with donor’s rules and regulations. She backstopped the USDOL funded program Educame Primero in Colombia to combat the worst forms of child labor through education. Ms. Peña’s prior work experience at the Organization of American States and her knowledge on international development in Latin America enable her to expertly research, analyze, and present opportunities to hold and expand our programs in the field. She has had the opportunity to live, extensively travel, study and work in several Latin American countries. Ms. Peña has a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies with a concentration in Development at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. A former Georgia Rotary Scholar, she also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia.

Lina Restrepo-Cabrales
Finance and Administration Officer

Ms. Restrepo-Cabrales is Finance and Administration Officer at Partners of the Americas. She started with Partners as Finance Intern in August 2015 before joining the organization as staff in June 2016. Lina holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with concentration in Finance and International Business from Marymount University.

During her studies, Ms. Restrepo-Cabrales had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, where she had a great introduction to International Business and International Development. 

Janira Romero Reyes
Senior Program Officer, International Education Programs

Janira Romero Reyes is a Senior Program Officer for Higher Education and oversees the Capacity Building Grants for U.S. Undergraduate Study Abroad. This State Department-funded program is Partners’ first global program designed to create or expand the capacity of U.S. higher education institutions to administer study abroad programs under the diversity goals – broadening the student population who studies abroad, the fields of study, and/or the destinations in which they study. Her many years of studying abroad and training/teaching in Latin America and Europe contribute to her knowledge and expertise in international education.

Janira is a former TEFL volunteer for Peace Corps Ukraine from 2010-2012. Upon completing her service, she obtained a master’s degree in Education, Gender and International Development from University College London and supported the London-based NGO, Teach A Man To Fish, in establishing the Central America network for the Enterprising School Network. Janira served as a member of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington DC, as board director for cultural events. She continues to be a passionate advocate of cross-cultural exchanges for developing global competence, as well as women & youth empowerment through education​.

Carmen Sepassi
Senior Program Officer, Education and Culture

Carmen Sepassi is the Senior Program Officer of the Education and Culture Program of Partners of the Americas. This program is funded by U.S. Department of State. The Education and Culture Program aims to connect people and institutions, serve communities, strengthen local institutions and enhance cross-cultural understanding and cooperation between the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. Partners of the Americas does this through travel grants, small grants and thematic workshops. For the past 25 years, the Education and Culture Program has worked with over 20,000 volunteers throughout the region to build partnerships across borders, mutual understanding and provide needed services to communities.

Formerly, Ms. Sepassi was the Program Assistant for the Fellowship in International Development Program – Fellows I through Fellows X for 20 years. This program was sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation.

Ms. Sepassi came to Partners of the Americas in April 1979 after living in the Middle East for one and a half years.

From 1972 to 1977, Carmen was the Executive Secretary for Deferred Compensation Plans, Inc., a private insurance company in Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Verganza
Program Officer, Agriculture and Food Security
(202) 637-6237

Stephanie Verganza is a program officer for the Agriculture & Food Security unit. Her primary role is in assisting with the implementation of the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program in Latin America & the Caribbean. Prior to joining Partners, Stephanie spent a year in Brazil as a Boren Scholar studying Portuguese and Brazilian culture. Her previous professional experiences include working at the Women's Foreign Policy Group, the US National Committee on UN Women-Los Angeles, and the Pacific Council on International Affairs.

Stephanie graduated from the University of California, Irvine with Bachelors degrees in economics and international studies. As an undergraduate, she participated in the Public Policy and International Affairs fellowship at Princeton University and spent two years studying security and development in Central America. As the daughter of Guatemalan parents, Stephanie is very passionate about economic development and social issues in Latin America.


Martha Cecilia Villada
Program Manager, EducaFuturo Program
(202) 637-6222

Martha Cecilia Villada is an experienced project evaluator and manager. Having served as Chief of Party for six successful USAID-funded initiatives, including a capacity building program in Colombia, Ms. Villada has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to develop critical monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems for both her projects and her civil society partners. As an evaluation consultant on projects throughout Latin America, her responsibilities have included developing the evaluation design, conducing data collection and analysis, and producing final reports. She is skilled in data collection methodology, including conducting interviews and surveys. Most significantly, she is adept at utilizing various analysis strategies that allow her to translate collected data into performance results and ultimately lessons learned.

In addition to her evaluation work, Ms. Villada has 27 years of experience building the capacity of civil society groups throughout Latin America in M&E, responsive leadership, and results-oriented performance. As Chief of Party she was consistently responsible for establishing internal monitoring systems and conducting mid-term evaluations of the projects under her management. In her most recent assignment as Chief of Party in Peru she worked closely with her partners at Vanderbilt University to facilitate the project’s baseline and end line surveys.