2022 Executive Board

Azara Santiago Rivera, PhD., President

Dr. Santiago Rivera, Ph.D., NCC is a Professor and Coordinator of the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Felician University, Lodi, New Jersey.  She has held academic and administrative appointments at Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington, DC and Chicago, IL, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, WI and the University at Albany, NY.  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, over 50 peer reviewed articles and book chapters, and has given over 120 presentations/workshops at local, national and international conferences, universities, and organizations. Her publications and research interests include multicultural competencies in the counseling profession, bilingual therapy, and behavioral activation as a treatment for depression in Latinx adults.  Her professional and leadership positions in professional organizations include President of the National Latinx Psychological Association.  She is the Founding Editor of the Journal of Latinx Psychology and is a Fellow of Divisions 45 and 17 of the American Psychological Association (APA). She served as committee member and chair of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education’s Outstanding Dissertation Awards Committee. Currently, she is the chair-elect of AAHHE’s Finance Committee. In 2014, Dr. Santiago-Rivera received the APA Presidential Citation for outstanding contribution to the profession. 

Enmanuel Mercedes, PhD, President-Elect

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.


Melissa Rivera Marano, PsyD., Past President

Melissa Rivera Marano, Psy.D. obtained both her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. Dr. Rivera Marano has provided assessment and therapy services as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist since 2001. In addition to clinical services, during her career she has worked as an administrator of a youth based community organization and program researcher. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University teaching Assessment courses to the doctoral psychology students. She also teaches an Intro to Clinical Psychology undergraduate course. Dr. Rivera Marano is on the Medical Staff of Monmouth Medical Center working with the Regional Newborn Extension Program. Dr. Rivera Marano is also published.  Dr. Rivera Marano is owner of a group private practice in Freehold, NJ. The private practice provides clinical services to children through adults. Her clinical specialties include treatment of Anxiety Disorders using a Cognitive Behavioral Approach along with validated techniques that are individualized to each patient.  Dr. Rivera Marano’s assessment services include neuropsychological assessment, pre-surgical assessment for bariatric surgery, psychological evaluation and forensic evaluation. She also provides psychological assessment and treatment for individuals involved in immigration proceedings, workers compensation and auto injury. Utilizing an integrative health model approach, Dr. Rivera Marano’s services include biofeedback, yoga therapy and reiki. Dr. Rivera Marano is a former Board Trustee on NAMI NJ and former Board member of the New Jersey Psychological Association Foundation of New Jersey. Dr. Rivera Marano is an active member of the Latino Mental Health Association of New Jersey, National Latino Psychological Association, NJ Psychological Association and Monmouth/Ocean County Psychological Association.


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.

Vanessa De Jesus Guzman, M.A., L.P.C., Early Career Professional Representative

Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a licensed and board certified counselor with 17 years of experience of working with children and families. She has obtained both her BS and MA from The College of New Jersey. Vanessa has been a tenured second grade teacher, middle school counselor, behavioral assistant, in-home clinician, group facilitator, and mindfulness instructor. Vanessa is the owner of Free to Be Mindful, LLC - located in Ridgefield, NJ - which provides counseling and mindfulness education for kids, parents and educators. Vanessa is also the founder of Amiga Moms, a movement empowering 21st-century Latina mothers through a supportive network and mindfulness education to help women live lives with ease and peace in minds and hearts.  

Student Representative