Board & Staff

SAF Staff

Nadeen Bir
Program Director | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

As a Palestinian-American, Nadeen Bir has always been passionate about social justice issues. She was first exposed to farmworker issues as an undergraduate at the College of Charleston, SC. Nadeen has worked to improve living and working conditions for farmworkers with SAF through various outlets- she was an intern in 2002, a board member in 2003, then as the internship coordinator in 2003 and 2004. For almost 5 years, Nadeen worked with El Centro Hispano in Durham, NC as the Director of Youth Programs to improve the lives of Latinos in Durham through education, organizing, and services. In 2009, Nadeen returned to SAF with the goal of involving more students and community members in the struggle for farmworker justice.

Maria Lopez Gonzalez
Operations Manager | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Maria Lopez Gonzalez grew up in the small town of White Oak, NC, surrounded by hog farms and fields of blueberries, corn, wheat, and cotton. While in high school and her freshman year of college she developed a passion for social justice. In the summer of 2017 she participated in SAF's Into the Fields program as the legislative intern for New Frame, LLC where her interest in politics and her love for advocacy grew. Last fall she began SAF's Solidaridad internship where she got to work with the Levante Leadership Institute. Maria holds many titles, including college student, immigrant, and proud Mexican woman, and is excited to add SAF Operations Manager to the list.

Andreina Malki
Youth Director | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Andreina was raised in the small town of Paysandu, Uruguay. At age 12, Andreina immigrated to Greenville, South Carolina, with her family to join her father. Andreina completed her undergraduate degree at Furman University. Upon college graduation, Andreina served as International Outreach Coordinator for the Via College of Medicine where she coordinated health outreach to rural, medically underserved communities in Central America and the Caribbean and in the Appalachian region of the United States. In May of 2016, Andreina completed an M.A. degree in Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some of her activities while in graduate school included co-founding an immigrant, Latinx youth group at Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and interning at REDES-Amigos de la Tierra, an environmental justice organization that works on issues relating to food autonomy, rural women, and environmental governance in Uruguay. Andreina is thrilled to be a part of SAF, and excitedly looks forward to learning more about the farmworker's movement from her knowledgeable colleagues, and working with youth from Levante Leadership Institute.

Bianca Olivares
Grassroots Organizer | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Bianca is a native North Carolinian from Wilson, NC. While studying Social Work at NC State University, Bianca participated in the Solidaridad Internship program at Student Action with Farmworkers. As Grassroots Organizer, she helps coordinate the ongoing planning, implementation and evaluation of SAF's work supporting farmworker-led campaigns, co-coordinates work with SAF alumni, and co-coordinates National Farmworker Awareness Week among other advocacy efforts.


Sandra Rodriguez
Assistant Director | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Sandra was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica, where she started her nonprofit work.  She first came to U.S. to study environmental science and moved to North Carolina in 1998. Since then she has been involved in issues relating to environmental protection, access to education for Latino students, and immigration issues. Sandra worked for Triangle Community Foundation for 10 years, connecting organizations with opportunities and resources to achieve social change. She has known SAF since she first moved to North Carolina and is excited to bring her experience to the farmworker movement. As Assistant Director, she helps manage the organization’s finances and policies, works on fundraising, and coordinates the Solidaridad internship.


Joanna Welborn
Communications Arts Director | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Joanna Welborn was born and raised in the foothills of Western North Carolina. While studying Sociology and Spanish at Appalachian State University, she participated in the Into the Fields Internship in 1996. She studied documentary photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine and at Duke's Center for Documentary Studies and continues to do documentary and fine art photography. Joanna served as SAF's Assistant Director for 5 years before moving into the position of Communications Arts Director, where she coordinates SAF's alumni program, communications, and documentary work.

Melinda Wiggins
Executive Director | Email
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Melinda Wiggins has served as the Executive Director of Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) since 1996. Before that time, she coordinated SAF's Into the Fields summer internship program for several years. She got involved with the farmworker movement as a SAF intern with the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry during the summer of 1993. Melinda is active with many immigrant and farmworker rights coalitions, including the Adelante Education Coalition, Farmworker Advocacy Network, and Farmworker Ministry Committee, as well as several social justice groups such as Zomppa and the Wincall Residency Program. Melinda is the granddaughter of sharecroppers who grew up in a rural farming community in the Mississippi Delta. She moved to North Carolina in 1992 to pursue a Masters of Theological Studies at Duke University.

Ramon Zepeda
Program Director | Email
Pronouns: he, him, his

Ramon Zepeda joined SAF as the Youth Organizer at the end 2011. Ramon was born in a small farming town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of 10 he moved to Los Angeles, CA to join his family and lived there until migrating to North Carolina in 2002. Ramon participated in SAF’s Levante youth program when he was a senior at Hoke County High School and helped to start an AIM Club for migrant students. In 2005, while studying Sociology at UNC-Pembroke, he participated in SAF’s Into the Fields Internship Program, working at the Western North Carolina Workers’ Center, where he was exposed to the struggles that workers face when they try to organize for better working conditions, dignity, and respect on the job. After graduating college in 2008, Ramon joined the labor movement as a union organizer and worked on campaigns such as the Justice at Smithfield Campaign, in solidarity with workers in a North Carolina pork processing plant, and a Wage Theft Campaign, in solidarity with day laborers in Washington DC. In addition, Ramon has served on SAF’s board of directors and has participated in alumni focus groups.

SAF Board of Directors

Daisy Almonte– Student, Duke University
Yessy Bustos– Graduate Student, East Carolina University
Norma Garcia Ortiz– Clinical Specialist Research Sr., PPD Inc.
José Ibarra– Student, UNC Chapel Hill
Coby Jansen Austin– Director of Programs and Policy, Family Success, Orange County Health Department
Mary Johnson Rockers– Farmworker Health Operations Specialist, NC Office of Rural Health
Tony Macias– Freelance Interpreter/Translator/Language Justice Consultant
Xaris Martinez– Assistant to the Director, Center for Documentary Studies
José Morales– Manager, Hilton Garden Inn Fayetteville, Fort Bragg
Jaslina Paintal– Student, East Carolina University
Maria Perry– Managing Attorney at Perry Legal Services, PLLC
Yeimi Tómas – Student, UNC Chapel Hill
Katie Villegas– Financial Advisor at Old Peak Finance