The Exchange is very happy to announce the hiring of three new staff members, Tashalee Cruz (Program Manager), Yanina Salerno (Office Manager), and Veronica Hotton (Education Manager)

Tashalee (“Tasha”) Cruz, Program Manager

Hello, Members and Friends of the GI Leadership Exchange,

I am elated to join the GI Leadership Exchange team as the Program Manager. The GI Leadership Exchange mission speaks to several of my passions – community, improving livability in disadvantaged communities, and equity.  It is an honor to be able to dedicate my time and efforts to such a unique organization.

Originally from the South Bronx, I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and an Associate’s degree in Baking & Pastry Arts. I now live in Hartford, Connecticut with my two fur babies: two 1-year old cats that I rescued.

Over the course of my 16-year career, I have learned the ins and outs of running an office in different roles. I am the founder of Velia’s Virtual Solutions, a Virtual Assistant Agency that empowers businesses and teams by streamlining processes and establishing company standards. With a solid background in running a successful business, I have honed my skills in analyzing and creating processes to improve efficiency. As Program Manager, I will continue to leverage my knowledge and leadership skills to drive positive change for the GI Leadership Exchange in the membership space as well as planning and running events. Please reach out to me at

Yanina (“Nina”) Salerno, Office Manager

Dear Members and friends of the Exchange,

I am honored and delighted to join the Exchange team as the Office Manager. The mission and vision of the Exchange is deeply aligned with one of my passions which lies at the intersection of nature and environmental justice for all (including other-than-human persons).

Originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, I now spend my time in Asheville, North Carolina sharing my knowledge as a Certified North Carolina Environmental Educator, Herbalist and Naturalist. In 2019 I founded Activated Earth, a Traditional Healing Space that offers environmental and cultural education, earth-honoring ceremony and ritual, and ancestral folk medicine consultations and services. I also enjoy creating Medicine Wheel Pollinator Gardens to restore native plant species as well as traditional ecological knowledge and practices.

I have been working and volunteering with environmental nonprofit organizations for the past eight years and find that being in community in this way is deeply meaningful and fulfilling. I hope that I can be of service to the Exchange team in a way that is mutually reciprocal, valuable, and enjoyable. I hope to meet you in person sometime soon but in the meantime, please feel free to email me at

Veronica Hotton, Education Manager

Last, but not least, we welcome Veronica Hotton, Education Manager. Since Veronica starts this Friday, there wasn’t sufficient time before publication of our newsletter to ask her to draft her own introduction. But we thought it would be important for you to know something about her, as you will be seeing her in attendance at virtual events beginning next week.

Veronica holds a Ph.D in Education from Simon Fraser University and an MA in Geography from the University of Hawaii, among other degrees. Her cover letter speaks to why she is a good match for the position:

I have been passionate about the intersection of environment, people, and professional development since I was a young adult. One of the times the link between the environment and people became clear to me was while I was a graduate student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa studying environmental geography. Before moving to Hawai’i, I read From a Native Daughter by Haunani-Kay Trask and her words were always with me–I was a guest of the islands. In Honolulu, I studied local stream-bed sediment contamination in highly channelized rivers. Since then and for over a decade, I channeled my passion into project management, organizing, and education for nonprofits, professional associations, higher education, and unions. After several years teaching in higher education, I transitioned into environmental education nonprofit work, and I am excited to continue in a nonprofit Education Manager role that can combine my passion for environment and people that supports a “peer learning network” that can “share experiences, circulate ideas, and solve problems together toward [a] more sustainable water infrastructure.”

Veronica was previously the Program and Learning Manager for, a nonprofit that focuses on sustainability and climate change education for employee engagement and post-secondary education audiences through peer discussion learning approaches. Veronica lives in Portland, Oregon and previously taught at Portland State University, developing courses in interdisciplinary social justice, natural sciences, and resource management. Please reach out to welcome Veronica at




P.O. Box 6783

Towson, MD 21285