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.
Intern - Assistant to the President
Lena Fleisch is the Assistant to the President Intern for the spring semester. She is a Phoenix native that is a current Junior at Arizona State University. Lena is majoring in Public Service and Public Policy with a minor in Communication. She plans to use the knowledge and skills that she had developed throughout undergraduate to further her education and pursue a Masters. She is a part of the Phoenix Cadet Program that receives hands-on training from police officers, and volunteers her time to the police department. Her other hobbies include running, hiking, paddle boarding, and pretty much anything outdoors.
Intern - Assistant to the Vice President
Miryam Valdivia-Romero is the Assistant to the Vice President intern for the spring semester. She is originally from Lima, Peru, and moved to Arizona in 2005. Miryam is an ASU Alumni, currently enrolled in the Sandra Day O’ Connor College of Law. She is pursuing her Master of Legal Studies, emphasizing International Rule of Law and Security. She will use her undergrad in Criminology and Homeland Security. Her interest is in human rights and she hopes to support in combatting human trafficking, either in non-profit or government level. Miryam has been a career counselor in the Navy reserves and enjoys traveling as a backpacker.
Intern - Youth & Education Program Assistant
Nikki Hinshaw is the Assistant to Youth and Education Program Coordinator intern for the spring semester. She is from Tempe, Arizona, and is a current Senior at Arizona State University. Nikki is working towards a BA in Communication, and a BS in Political Science. She plans to use her education to enter the field of public diplomacy and help promote cultural understanding. She believes in creating opportunities for people to engage globally, especially through international education and exchange programs. Nikki served as a mentor to international students at ASU and works for Project Humanity. Her other hobbies include traveling, exploring new food places, and various cultures.
Intern - Marketing Coordinator
Bailey Ricard is the Marketing Coordinator Intern for the spring semester. Bailey was born in Lewiston, Idaho, but lived in Spokane, Washington most of her life. She moved to Tempe to attend Arizona State University. She’s currently a senior majoring in Communication, with a minor in Family and Human Development. She plans to use her degree to make connections across the globe and inspire face-to-face interactions along the way. At ASU, Bailey has been a part of the Women’s Club Volleyball team throughout her whole college career and enjoys exploring nature.