President / CEO
Rita Marko has been with the City of Phoenix for slightly more than 16 years. Initially hired as the Library’s Development Officer, Rita staffed the Phoenix Public Library Foundation and raised funds for critical library services. She was promoted to the position of Library Community Relations Manager, where she was responsible for media relations, marketing and the development of the Library’s website – the City’s first responsively-designed site.
Rita transferred to the City Manager’s Office, where she supported two Deputy City Managers, and staffed three City Council Subcommittees and two task forces. Most recently, Rita served as the Management Assistant II in the Public Works Director’s Office.
Prior to coming to the City, Rita worked for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, raising $1.5 million in about 18 months. She also worked for the Skokomish Indian Nation in Washington state, serving as the community’s Health Planner, Economic Development Planner and Director of Economic Development. Rita has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Anthropology from the University of Arizona, where the focus of her studies was culture change and economic development. Her Masters thesis focused on the Cuban Women’s Federation as an agent of change for women in Cuba.
Rick Gerrard is deputy director of the City of Phoenix Office of International Relations and deputy director of Phoenix Sister Cities. He has served in this capacity since March 1999. Rick is responsible for handling matters of protocol and the programming of meetings and activities for international delegations visiting the City of Phoenix on official business. In addition, he is responsible for designing, organizing and coordinating international exchange-related activities and events associated with nine sister cities around the world.
Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, Rick was deputy director of the Town Affiliation Association of the United States, better known as Sister Cities International, based in Washington, D.C. He spent nine years with Sister Cities International in various capacities where he managed numerous grants and designed and conducted international exchange, training and development programs worldwide. He has organized and conducted political, educational and trade delegations to more than two dozen industrialized and developing countries, including the first visit of United States mayors to South Africa after the collapse of apartheid in 1995; the first visit of US mayors to Vietnam after the normalization of diplomatic ties in 1996; and, the first visit of US mayors to Northern Ireland after the renewal of the peace process in 1997, just prior to the Good Friday peace accords of 1998. Rick has been involved in international affairs for over thirty years.
Rick has an MA in Latin American history from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a bachelor’s degree in social science and education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He speaks Spanish and some Portuguese and served for over two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
Youth and Education Coordinator
April has a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University (ASU), where she specialized in direct practice with children, youth, and families. She also has bachelors’ degrees from ASU in communication and English literature. Prior to Phoenix Sister Cities, April oversaw a student-led department at ASU West and coordinated community service events for ASU students. April also has experience working with survivors of domestic violence, foster youth, recent mothers, and trauma survivors. April has studied abroad in London, England and taught English to third grade students in Chonburi, Thailand.
April is thrilled to work with Phoenix Sister Cities and is passionate about removing barriers and increasing opportunities for all youth.
Event and Membership Coordinator
Emily has a BA in International Affairs and a minor in Business from Northern Arizona University. Prior to Phoenix Sister Cities, Emily was a full-time student and worked as a camp counselor in Pennsylvania over the summers as a ropes course facilitator. She worked with young women from the ages of 5-15, facilitated numerous team-building activities, and encouraged young women to challenge themselves every day. She is passionate about working and volunteering with youth and this is what led her to apply for an internship position with Phoenix Sister Cities (PSC) in 2018.
Emily began her work with PSC in the fall semester of 2018 as the Youth and Education Program Coordinator intern. During her internship, she was hired on full time and now serves as the Event and Membership Coordinator at PSC. In this role, she helps plan and coordinate all PSC Signature events, including the annual Global Links Business Luncheon, The Mayor’s International, PSC 5K Run, and other PSC functions/fundraisers throughout the year. She also works on membership and maintains the membership database at PSC. Emily finds it extremely important to sustain member engagement and satisfaction and works to find new ways to enhance the membership experience overall for PSC members.
Emily is excited to be working with Phoenix Sister Cities and is eager to learn more about event and program planning/coordinating and improving membership.
Cynthia Rodriguez has been a self-employed Bookkeeper since 2001, working with various industries such as, a non-profit organization called Arizona RBI Youth Sports, various branches of the Medical field, Real Estate, Title and Escrow and the music production industry . She has also worked with the finance industry serving clients with banking and investment needs. She is excited to be working with Phoenix Sister Cities as their Bookkeeper and look forward to what the future holds with this new relationship.
Assistant to the President/CEO - Intern
Taylor Lepird is the Assistant to the President for the Spring 2021 term. She is a recent graduate of the University of Arizona, who majored in Global Studies and English. She worked several jobs on campus that related to providing risk assessment of travel for UA students and faculty and working with undeclared students as a paraprofessional advisor. Although Taylor was born and raised in Arizona, she plans to travel before going back to school for law or international affairs. In her free time, Taylor enjoys reading and cooking. While at Phoenix Sister Cities, Taylor hopes to work on her budgeting and research skills while assisting the President of the company.
Assistant to the Vice President - Intern
Monica Orillo is the Assistant to the Vice President for the Spring 2021 term. She graduated in Fall 2020 from Arizona State University as the Dean’s Medalist of the School of International Letters & Cultures with a BA in German, a BA in Political Science, and a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Having grown up in Gilbert, Arizona, Monica first gained a sense of global citizenship as a high school exchange student in Germany through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program. Since then, she has interned with the U.S. State Department in Germany and studied Southeast Asian studies in the Philippines for one year as a Boren Scholar. At ASU, Monica recruited for the Peace Corps as a campus ambassador and was a research assistant for an investigative journalist in Manila working on human rights. Before heading off to Germany in the fall on a Fulbright English Teaching Award, she hopes to use her time at Phoenix Sister Cities to learn as much as she can about non-profits, project management, and international exchange. Monica aspires to someday put her interests in foreign languages and area studies to practice with a career in international relations.
Assistant to the Youth and Education Coordinator - Intern
Jason is the Assistant to the Youth and Education Coordinator for the Spring 2021 term. He is a second year Tourism major and a Nonprofit Professional Certificate candidate at Arizona State and Barrett the Honors College. He was born in raised in Phoenix, Arizona, spent his childhood summer visiting family in Mexico, and went abroad as a 2018 Phoenix Sister Cities Youth Ambassador to Chengdu, China. Jason is also a 2019 Flinn Scholar, volunteers often with ASU Circle K International, helped start a cultural heritage club called Parados Juntos as ASU, and is actively using all his connections to learn all he can about International Tourism, event planning and community outreach. Having been inspired by his time abroad, Jason now seeks to spend even more time exploring the world and meeting its people and cultures, with hopes that he can one day help bring the same experiences to other low-income kids like him. His interests are reading, music, nerdy stuff, cooking, and taking care of a bonsai tree he named Federico.
Smart Cities Coordinator - Intern
Cora is the Assistant to the Vice President for the Fall 2020 term. She is in her final year at Arizona State University majoring in Nonprofit Leadership and Management with a minor in French. Cora grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and has worked as a camp counselor on Nantucket Island for the past three summers. During her time at ASU, she has been very involved on campus as a tour guide, lifeguard at the fitness center, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, and Vice President of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association. She finds much joy in her friendships and various creative outlets: writing, cooking, and photography. Cora plans to pursue a career with the Foreign Service, committed to advancing U.S. interests in a Francophone country. As an intern, she hopes to contribute to the creation of long-term partnerships and business opportunities between the residents of Phoenix and its sister cities.