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 Vice President of Phoenix Sister Cities Inc. and Deputy Director of the City of Phoenix International Relations Office. Phoenix Sister Cities is a non-profit corporation that manages ten sister city relationships on behalf of the city. He has served in this capacity since 1999. His work includes the design and coordination of international exchange projects and events around the world.
Among the major projects that he has managed was the fundraising initiative to finance the construction of a new kindergarten school in Chengdu, China, built after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. The kindergarten, named for the City of Phoenix, replaced a school that was destroyed during the earthquake. Rick also took the lead in the development of a training program for doctors and nurses in partnership with the Maricopa County Burn Center to address a critical need for the care of burn victims in Hermosillo, Mexico after the tragic day care fire of 2009 which took the lives of over 50 infants and toddlers. In addition to his sister city related duties, Rick works with international delegations visiting Phoenix on official business, briefing the mayor and city council, and managing matters of protocol for international visitors on official business with the city.
Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, Rick served as Deputy Director at Sister Cities International (SCI) in Washington, DC. He spent ten years with SCI in various capacities. Among his major achievements, Rick organized political, educational, and trade delegations to more than a dozen industrialized and developing countries including some sponsored by the US Department of State. These included the first visit of US mayors to South Africa after the collapse of apartheid (1995); the first visit of US mayors to Vietnam after the normalization of diplomatic ties (1996); and the first visit of US mayors to Northern Ireland, just prior to the Good Friday Agreement (1997). Rick also worked closely with the SCI Board to organize and conduct four Western Hemispheric Fora for municipalities held in the US and Latin America.
Rick has been involved in international affairs for over thirty years. He served for two years as SCI’s State Representative in Arizona and served one year as President of the Arizona State Sister Cities Association. Rick received his Master of Arts in Latin American History from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Sciences and Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and served for two years as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
Youth and Education Program Coordinator
Marie graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and minors in French and Nonprofit Leadership and Management. The first in her family to go to college and the oldest of five adopted siblings, Marie is passionate about creating opportunities for students and youth around the world. In high school she had the opportunity to teach abroad in Santo Domingo and served as a youth ambassador to China with People to People International.
As a young professional Marie has had the opportunity to continue engaging with numerous cultures around the world working with international communities in education, development, and humanitarian fields. She has volunteered in Ímuris, Mexico, studied tourism and national identity in the west of Ireland, and spent a semester abroad in Meknes, Morocco. While in Morocco Marie partnered with a local non-profit organization where she prepared educational activities focused on English language learning for children, facilitated community workshops, and worked on renovation projects within the organization. These experiences were prefaced by her studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as Barrett, the Honors College which centered on migration, international development, resource management, human rights, and geopolitics.
Prior to Phoenix Sister Cites, Marie worked with ASU as a Community Assistant where she mentored first year students and helped them find community and academic success on campus. Marie served as a camp counselor for ASU SummerUp Camps and has been an Ignite Fellow at Teach for America where she facilitated virtual reading intervention programs for third grade students. In the summer of 2019 Marie interned with Phoenix Sister Cities where she helped with the Youth Ambassador Exchange Program. Marie hopes to use her past experiences and her position at Phoenix Sister Cities to cultivate sustainable international relationships that will contribute to the development and peace of communities abroad.
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
Manny is the assistant to the President for the Fall 2021 term. He will graduate this year with a Bachelor in Global Management and a minor in Sustainability at Arizona State University. He will also be pursuing a Masters of Global Management through ASU and is expected to graduate that program in Fall of 2022. Manny was previously enlisted in the United States Air Force and has a strong sense of commitment to improve the world around him. Manny saw Phoenix Sister Cities as a great opportunity to gain valuable experience for a hopefully long and successful global career.
Assistant to the Vice President - Intern
Marshall came to Phoenix Sister Cities from a diverse background of experiences. He is currently in his last year of his undergrad at Arizona State University and will be graduating with a BS in Planning.
During his internship with Phoenix Sister Cities, he will be engaged in several projects which relate to local businesses and international affairs. When Marshall is not working or studying he enjoys hiking, camping, and any other outdoor activity.
Assistant to the Youth and Education Program Coordinator
Ella Grant is the Assistant to the Youth and Education Program Coordinator on the Fall 2021 intern team. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University. Ella is double majoring in Global Studies and Justice Studies, with a focus on human rights. Additionally, Ella is minoring in Urban Planning and Sustainability. Ella is a member of the Next Generation Service Corps at Arizona State University, a scholarship program that focuses on teaching cross sector leadership and increasing community collaboration.
Ella is passionate about traveling and gaining global experience. She has traveled to many different countries and spent time living, working or going to school in Vietnam and Australia. Additionally, she has triple citizenship of The United States, Australia and New Zealand. She is excited to share her passion for global experiences and building cross cultural connections with others through her work with the Youth Ambassador Exchange Program.
After graduation, Ella plans to join the Peace Corps, attend graduate school, and then pursue a career working on refugee resettlement and international economic development. Prior to working at Phoenix Sister Cities, Ella interned for the Refugee and Immigrant Community for Empowerment, where she worked to provide assistance to refugees throughout the process of resettlement in Arizona, as well as advocated for refugee friendly legislation. Her passion is finding new and sustainable ways to provide humanitarian and developmental aid to low income communities globally.
Outside of school and work, Ella loves hiking, camping and anything to do with nature, as well as working out and cooking.
Through this internship at Phoenix Sister Cities, Ella is looking forward to helping others improve their global proficiency and increase the Phoenix community’s interconnectivity with our sister cities.
Morgann Kelly is the Marketing Intern for the Fall 2021 team. She is a Sophomore at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. She is currently pursuing her BA in Global Studies with an emphasis in Economics on the pre-law track.
In addition to being a PSC Intern, Morgann is involved in many student organizations on campus. She is a part of the Leadership Scholarship Program and the Tillman Scholars Program where she focuses on leadership development. Morgann is also the Director of University Affairs for Undergraduate Student Government, enabling her to work with ASU's administration and the Arizona Board of Regents. Additionally, she is the Vice President of the ambassador program for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where she serves as a mentor for both incoming and new students in the Arizona State community.
Outside of clubs, Morgann enjoys working out and being active. She is an internationally licensed first-degree black belt in Wado-Ryu Marital Arts, weight-lifts daily, and is currently playing intramural volleyball at ASU -- for fun of course.
By being an intern for Phoenix Sister Cities, Morgann is excited to take on projects and initiatives that aid in fostering equitable relationships of peace and prosperity within Phoenix and around the world.