Rev. Ruben Ortiz
Director of National Programs

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 6 years and have three children, Zoryanie, Azariah, and Jaazaniah, and are expecting their fourth later in 2022. 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 National Programs team for six years, 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 5 states, 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 utilizes his Hip Hop platform as a medium to communicate his faith and life experience. His music played in 91 countries and has amassed over 400,000 streams in the past 2 years, and has had his music covered by VENTS Magazine, The Los Angeles Tribune, and his story featured on Motivos magazine. In 2021, he was awarded the “Distinguished Young Alumnus of the year award” from his alma mater Eastern University for his service. Serving at Esperanza, Inc., Anthony Ramos is able to see his faith come alongside his passion for serving his community

Kayla Gonzales
Associate Project Director

Kayla Gonzales

Kayla Gonzales serves as the Associate Project Director of the Esperanza Youth Leadership Institute. She is a Philadelphia native who was educated and currently lives, works, worships, and serves in the Hunting Park community. Kayla began her career as a 2nd Grade Teacher at Hunting Park Christian Academy, of which she is a former student. She is a product of local church youth ministry, and currently serves as a Youth Pastor at Primera Iglesia Cristiana Misionera along with her husband, Randy, where they serve approximately 40 young people. In 2017, Kayla was a member of the very first cohort of the Esperanza Youth Leadership Institute, formerly known as the Barrio Youth Initiative, and was also part the 2019 cohort of the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative. She is passionate about urban youth and aims to empower those who come from “unfavorable” places to rise within their own communities and generate the impact and change necessary for those communities to thrive. Kayla oversees the Go and Do Youth Civic Engagement Program at Esperanza, where she educates and engages young people in exploring civic topics that are meaningful to them and their communities. Kayla‘s work in youth ministry and mentoring for over 8 years has inspired her to pursue a Master’s Degree in counseling from Missio Seminary. She hopes to continue serving young people and their families through the mental health field and beyond.


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.