Leadership Team

Board of Directors


Headshot of Marie CoppolaMarie Coppola

Executive Director & Founder

M.A., Ph.D., Brain & Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester

Asst. Professor, Departments of Psychology and Linguistics, University of Connecticut

Dr. Coppola’s interest in language and effective communication is long-standing, being rooted in her experience as the hearing daughter of two Deaf parents who use American Sign Language. Her academic research focuses on the importance of sign language input and a linguistic community for deaf children’s linguistic and cognitive development. Through Manos Unidas, she strives to connect deaf children and their families with linguistic resources.


headshot-juliaJulia Adell

Board Member

M.A., Speech and Language Pathology, University of Texas, Austin

Julia is a graduate of the master’s program of speech and language pathology at the University of Texas, Austin. Her inspiration to study speech and language pathology came about while doing fieldwork with Dr. Coppola in Nicaragua. Julia has since completed a clinical practicum at the Texas School for the Deaf. Her master’s thesis investigates how a deaf late first-language learner with rich sign language input exhibits improved word learning skills and intelligible language production. Her mission as a clinician parallels the mission of Manos Unidas, believing that every human deserves a language.


Headshot of Kyle DuarteKyle Duarte

Board Member

Ph.D., Information and Communication Sciences, Université de Bretagne-Sud

Designer and Interpreter, The Kyle Duarte Company

Kyle is a human-centered design strategist and linguist working in Washington, DC. He currently works with governments and educational institutions to innovate around social and economic change. Previously, his doctoral research considered the practical applications of avatars as a form of accessible technology for deaf users. In his leisure time, Kyle is a wine reviewer and avid traveler.


headshot-blankKurt Gagne

Board Member

Kurt, who is Deaf, is a research assistant in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut. He is currently studying Early Childhood Education with a goal of working with deaf children around the world. Kurt has traveled to Nicaragua several times and has worked with Deaf children and adults. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and children.


Headshot of Michaela RossMichaela Ross

Board Member

M.A., Business and Economics Journalism, City University of New York

With a background in communication theory, Michaela became fascinated with the linguistic development of the deaf community in Nicaragua while serving as a business development Peace Corps volunteer. She studied macro and micro economies within the journalism program at the City University of New York, and currently works as a journalist in Washington, DC. Michaela maintains strong ties with former colleagues in Nicaragua, and continues to support deaf education advancement in the country.


Nicaragua Staff

Clelia Lisseth Arias Martínez


Lic. Language & Literature

Clelia joined Manos Unidas in 2012 where she contributes to the training of a local teacher in El Sauce, León in NSL and literacy. She loves to work with children and feels passionate about the Deaf community.

Teresa de Jesús Aragón Escorcia


Teresa joined Manos Unidas in 2012.  She is from the city of El Sauce.  She team teaches with Clelia from León on Saturday’s to teach deaf children from surrounding communities NSL.

Angela Betanco Corea


Lic. Primary Education

Angela joined Manos Unidas in 2012.  Angela is a local teacher from San Juan de Limay in the department of Estelí.  She works with local deaf children from the surrounding rural areas.

Heydi Erenia Velásquez Rugama


Heydi is from Estelí and provides NSL training to the local teacher from San Juan de Limay.  Together they team teach deaf children in order to improve their communication and life skills.