Esperanza Community Center

About Esperanza


Maricela Torres

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Maricela Torres is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Esperanza. Through advocacy, partnerships, and strategic fundraising, Maricela has successfully implemented community outreach events to foster a community for West Palm Beach migrant families. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Esperanza, nurtures stakeholder relationships, and oversees all operations. 

Maricela has been featured in Latino Rebels, The Sun Sentinel, and The Palm Beach Post. She is a frequent commentator for community and immigration issues for WPTV, WPBF, and WFLX. Maricela sits on The City of West Palm Beach’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, she also serves on the board of Neighborhood Renaissance, a non-profit development corporation dedicated to building and supporting strong economies and diverse communities.

She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Organizational Management and a Master’s of Science in Psychology, both from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Formerly President of the Board, Maricela believes in the power of education to transform lives as well as the importance of serving others by volunteering in the community. Co-founder of Esperanza Community Center, She was born in Michoacán, Mexico. She was ten years old when she came to the United States with her mother and siblings. Maricela grew up in Northern California and experienced firsthand the hardships and challenges facing immigrant workers. As an undocumented teenager, She worked as a migrant worker picking grapes in California and cherries in Oregon. Maricela moved to Florida in 1997. 

Currently, Maricela serves as the Executive Director of Esperanza Community Center. Maricela also serves on the board of Neighborhood Renaissance, a non-profit development corporation dedicated to building and supporting strong economies and diverse communities. She was appointed by Mayor Keith James to be a member of the City of West Palm Beach’s Real Estate & Housing Committee. The committee is tasked with making recommendations to the City of West Palm Beach about “Policy and Funding sources available to address systemic patterns of racial and ethnic inequity” facing renters and homebuyers in the city. Past volunteer work includes serving on the board of directors of El Sol, Jupiter’s Neighborhood Resource Center. At El Sol, Maricela volunteered as an Adult Literacy Teacher; a Legal Services Program director; and as “Te Escucho” where She directed a peer counseling program. Maricela has also volunteered as a Child Advocate with the 15th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem program in Palm Beach County, where she sought to provide a necessary voice on behalf of Florida’s abused and neglected children.

Yirna Buitrago

Office Services Coordinator

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Yirna worked for 15 years training social leaders and coordinating social and community development projects. In addition, Yirna contributed to the development and implementation of public policies for populations with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, LGBTQ populations, projects for children and seniors, and populations displaced by violence, among others. She holds various degrees and certifications in Physiotherapy, Social Management, and Community Based Rehabilitation. Yirna has also completed the course for Community Health Work with the Florida Certification Board (FCB).

In 2019, She started as a volunteer at Esperanza Community Center, quickly moving up to the position of Office Manager, where She has been instrumental in developing and implementing outreach and educational programs to benefit day laborers, as well as holding workshops, classes and community outreach programs. Yirna managed the 2020 census initiative at Esperanza, She has developed a safe and trusting space for mothers and children at the Center via the Baby Diaper program. Yirna conducts workshops on worker’s rights, prevention of wage theft, health and wellness education, provides referrals to local services, and manages ECC partnerships with other local organizations.