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 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 Vice President - Intern
Kelli is the Assistant to the Vice President for the Summer 2021 term. She is entering her senior year at Arizona State University pursuing a BA in Global Health and a BA Global Studies with certificates in Sociolegal Studies and Evolutionary Medicine. She is a 2018 Flinn Scholar, a 2019 Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict Research Fellow, and a 2020 Millennium Fellow. She has conducted research for the Global Impact Collaboratory at ASU as well as the Morrison Institute for Public Policy in areas such as international development, civic engagement, and child welfare. One of her organizations, Sex Education for a Change, is currently involved in legislative advocacy for improved sex ed curriculums in the state and she has previously done legislative advocacy for kidsandcars.org on capitol hill.
Having grown up in various cities in the Phoenix metro area, Kelli feels a deep sense of commitment to improving her home state and recognizes the importance of international connections for that purpose. She will be studying global health, pandemic response systems, and inter-state communications in Copenhagen and London in the upcoming fall semester. Outside of work and school Kelli enjoys road trips, national parks, camping, and dancing. Her secret talent is decorating cupcakes.
Anusha is the Marketing Coordinator Intern for the Summer 2021 term. She is entering her junior year at Arizona State University, studying sociology and history with a minor in Spanish and certificates in human rights and international studies. Driven by change and hard work, Anusha likes to be involved in her community domestically and internationally. She is currently serving as the civic-engagement coalition chair at her university. As the Director of Advocacy of her honors college council, Anusha worked extensively with the Deans to increase civic engagement and racial justice across the campus. She helped develop the first racial justice Task Force at the honors college, which brings together faculty, staff, and students to come up with solutions to improve diversity and inclusion on campus. Passionate for culture and education, Anusha helped create an educational non-profit called Culture Talk, which provides resources for teachers and schools to use to diversify their curriculum in social studies.
During her time at the Sister Cities, Anusha is looking forward to improving her creativity in engaging the Phoenix Sister Cities community. In the future, Anusha wants to work for the Department of State in the Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor to promote and protect human rights domestically and abroad. In her free time, Anusha likes to play piano, spend time outdoors, and read.