Rev. Ruben Ortiz
Director of Faith & Capacity Initiatives

Rev. Ruben Ortiz

Rev. Rubén Ortiz has served in ministry for over 35 years. His professional emphasis has been in Leadership Development, Youth Ministry, Church Planting, and Community Development.

He is Executive Director of Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity and Director of National Programs at Esperanza. In this role, he oversees all of Esperanza’s national initiatives and the Esperanza Youth Leadership Institute, a grassroots and degree level program in partnership with Esperanza College of Eastern University. Throughout the years he has leveraged over $18 million in grants to churches and community groups.

Rev. Ortiz planted Iglesia Del Barrio (IDB) and served as its Senior Pastor for 10 years. IDB was the first bi-lingual church in Philadelphia that was founded specifically to serve 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics. He’s worked in prior roles with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, helping to design and implement AMACHI, a national mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents and Communities United to Empower Youth, a program to prevent gang activity, reduce youth violence, child abuse and neglect.

Rev. Ortiz has a Master’s of Theological Studies from Palmer Theological Seminary. He serves as a member of the Esperanza College Council. He is a frequent speaker at local colleges, universities, seminaries, and conferences. His is co-author of God in the City, a contextual devotional for city youth and young adults. He has served as President and Board Chair of Timoteo Sports, a youth mentoring athletic program which partners with churches and others to help transform our city. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and continues to minister there with his wife of 33 years. Together they have three children: Rubén, Seth and Amaris.

Anthony Ramos
Project Director

Anthony Ramos

Anthony Ramos was raised in North Philadelphia and currently lives in Northwood, Pa. Anthony and his wife, Bridney, have been married for seven years and have four children, Zoryanie, Azariah, Jaazaniah, and Zion. Anthony Ramos is a product of Esperanza, graduating in December of 2011 as co-valedictorian of his graduating class in Esperanza College. Anthony Ramos has obtained his Bachelor of Social Work from Eastern University and holds a Master of Divinity from Missio Seminary (formerly Biblical Theological Seminary). Anthony Ramos, who has worked on Esperanza’s Faith and Capacity Initiatives for seven years, serves as Project Director and has helped the development, launch, and oversaw the Esperanza Youth Leadership Institute, Renovación Pastoral, and Thriving Congregations. Anthony oversaw youth mentoring programs in 7 cities across the country, oversaw and helped the implementation of Esperanza’s Bible engagement (Vive la Vida, Vive La Palabra) that engaged over 2,000 people in diverse Bible reading plans, and spearheaded the highly successful online #GoAndDo Campaign to encourage acts of kindness. Anthony Ramos is an Adjunct Professor teaching Faith, Reason, and Justice and Bible 100 to first year students at Esperanza College, and is a rapper and songwriter, who goes by “A-Ram” and utilizes his Hip Hop platform as a medium to communicate his faith and life experience. Anthony Ramos has had his music played in 116 countries and has amassed over 500,000 streams in the past 3 years. Serving at Esperanza, Inc. Anthony Ramos is able to see his faith come alongside his passion for serving his community.

Ivelisse Vazquez-Figueroa
Associate Project Director

Ivelisse Vazquez-Figueroa

Ivelisse Vazquez was born in Puerto Rico and has been a resident in the city of Philadelphia for over 16 years. Ivelisse has been married to Ramon, a wonderful and hard-working gentleman close to 6 years and they have a very busy home with four children: Carolay, Caleb. Josue and Rebecca. Ivelisse is passionate about Early and Special Needs education as well as preaching the Gospel.  She studied K3 at University of Puerto Rico and is currently pursuing her MA degree on Christian Counseling with Christian University Inc.  She serves as an Elder and Education Director at Iglesia Mahanaim International and also serves as a Chaplain for Crown of Justice Chaplaincy Ministry Corp. Ivelisse’s compassion is for the underserved community thus explains why she has served in a variety of community based and nonprofit organizations, that provides a voice to those who are voiceless.  She has served as a Youth Leader on a Regional level educating, supervising, and leading youth leaders among different churches. Ivelisse loves anything that has to do with learning and growth. She is a firm believer that when you stop learning you will stop growing. Her hobbies are reading, spending quality time with her family and visiting historical places around the world such as Rome, Venice. Toledo etc.

Jennifer Martinez
Administrative Manager

Jennifer Martinez

Jennifer Martinez, a native of North Philadelphia, currently resides in the Northeast with her husband Michael, whom she has been married to for six years. Since she started her walk with the Lord, Jennifer has been actively involved in various areas of ministry within her church, Iglesia Mahanaim International. However, her real passion lies in youth leadership development. She has been a youth mentor for four years and is now serving as a youth pastor and teacher, a role she has held for the last five years. Apart from her church work, Jennifer has been involved in other youth programs, including Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow, associated with Congreso de Latinos Unidos. In this program, she facilitated an average of 60 girls from different high schools. Her dedication to serving her community led her to enroll herself and her team in the Esperanza Youth Leadership Program, which they completed in September 2023.

Jennifer’s professional experience spans 12 years in administrative work, where she has honed her skills in making sense of things for others. She graduated from Manor College with an Associate Degree in Psychology and hopes to pursue further studies in the field. Outside of her work, Jennifer enjoys writing poetry, which she shares on her Instagram and YouTube page called His_Design_Speaks.


The Esperanza Youth Leadership Institute (EYLI) is a collaboration between Esperanza’s faith programs and Esperanza College of Eastern University that:

  • inspires vision
  • offers educational opportunities at the grassroots and degree level and
  • provides resources for those that serve primarily Hispanic youth.

We strengthen the body of Christ to reach, disciple, and give voice to young people to become agents of transformation in urban communities.


The idea for the initiative was inspired by the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, a 15 month intensive program where a co-hort of 12 local leaders participated. It was also inspired by Timoteo Flag Football, a Christian athletics and youth mentoring program. Those programs brought up the training needs of the local church and community to evangelize and disciple our youth. Most local urban churches are small in membership with many classified as “store front” churches. They lack the necessary resources to effectively meet the demands and grapple with the issues that confront our young people. Most of these churches cannot afford a full-time Pastor, let alone a youth worker. Therefore, most of the burden falls on volunteers who are eager to serve but are often overworked, overwhelmed, and untrained. The message, methods of evangelism, and training which does make it to the street level is usually irrelevant to the most at-risk, especially to the fastest growing population in Philadelphia; Latino youth. It is apparent that most of our local churches need help in developing quality and effective youth ministries in our barrios (neighborhoods).

After conducting a feasibility study over a six month period (October 2014 through March 2015), convening a meeting with 43 Pastors and Youth Ministers, potential funders and program partners, it was decided to move forward with developing the Barrio Youth Initiative. During that planning phase we explored several opportunities to house the initiative including Timoteo, Teen Haven, Street Psalms, Esperanza Health Center, Common Grace and the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation. Esperanza Inc. stepped forward to house the initiative and in addition made a financial commitment to support a portion of the salary of the Executive Director, Rev. Ruben Ortiz. The initiative is now launching as a subsidiary of Esperanza and a partner of Esperanza College.