top of page

Who We Are

The Sunnyside Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established in 1991 by BIPOC graduates of Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) to provide equitable educational opportunities to SUSD students on the south side of Tucson. 


The Sunnyside Foundation has grown into the hub of community improvement initiatives and giving on Tucson’s southside. 


We understand that in order for our students to show up ready to learn and for families to thrive, providing support with basic necessities is imperative. While we strengthen educational pathways for students we have also worked through partnerships and trusted grassroots networks to offer a safety net of housing, food and support for those who live and learn in our neighborhoods. This work has included emergency rental and utility payments to families, food box and toiletry distribution, digital equity work including in-home WiFi installation, and COVID-specific relief efforts.


We believe that every person within our community has the skills, strengths, and capacity to act creatively and work together to solve the issues they are facing.

Our Mission


The Sunnyside Foundation advances an intergenerational culture of learning by investing in projects rooted in courage, community, equity and imagination in Tucson's southside.

Our Vision

We envision a community where every southside family has the capacity to cultivate their own learning opportunities throughout their lifetime. We focus on enriching our community by making resources available year-round to bring knowledge, opportunities, and insight to those who volunteer, donate or receive assistance.

Meet The Team

Liz Soltero headshot (photo credit_ Antonio Ramirez) (1).jpg

Elizabeth "Liz" Soltero

Chief Executive Officer

Liz Soltero is a native Tucsonese with decades of experience serving local communities through city governance, academia, and public library administration. Throughout her professional career and community leadership, she has dedicated her time to co-developing community-centered projects and relations and to promoting broad educational opportunities. Liz holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mexican American Studies and a Master’s of Library Science, MLS, from the University of Arizona. She serves on local boards attending to the needs of libraries, students, & families and advocating for mobility justice. Liz believes in public service, shared leadership, and in the power of community. She is an ardent community advocate who is dedicated to cultivating and sustaining strong community relations and to working from community strengths to meet community needs. She loves libraries and parks and enjoys exploring Tucson on her bike with her high-spirited son Noah.

DSC09773 copy.jpg

Veronica Cruz-Mercado

Director of Operations

Veronica Cruz-Mercado’s commitment to service and community is a common thread in her professional and personal life. A sixth generation Tucsonan, Veronica grew up on Tucson’s southside and began her career telling the stories of her beloved Tucson as a journalist. Looking to have a more direct impact on the people at the heart of her stories, Veronica later embraced roles in community engagement, outreach, and children’s literacy while at the University of Arizona. She comes to the Sunnyside Foundation with a deep knowledge of systems and logistics, large-scale event planning, communications and program coordination. In her free time, Veronica enjoys volunteering for organizations that contribute to a thriving Tucson including the Arizona Luminaria, Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona and the El Rio Vecinos. Veronica also runs a small business and can frequently be found at community events with her family.

Karla_s Headshot_.jpg

Karla Toledo

Education & Community Manager

Karla Toledo’s desire to help make an impact in the community and those she encounters has become a life long commitment. Born in Obregon, Sonora and raised on the Southside of Tucson, Karla is a proud graduate of Desert View High School. Karla initially started working with the Sunnyside Foundation as a contractor in the Eviction Prevention Program. She helped in the outreach development of the program which assisted DACA, immigrants, and refugees. She later became the manager of the program. This experience advanced her desire to support the immigrant community and she now volunteers with Keep Tucson Together where she helps asylum seekers with their application process. Karla now oversees the Foundation’s Excellence in Education and Emergency Relief funds and creates social media content for the organization. Her experience in social media comes from creating content where she promotes laughter and encouraging positivity in her personal time. She also has a small online business where she promotes authentic skin care products.

Laura_s Headshot.jpg

Laura Corrales

Administrative Coordinator

Laura Corrales was raised on the southside of Tucson and is a first generation immigrant born in Nogales, Sonora. She is a proud graduate of Desert View High School. Laura previously worked with the Sunnyside Foundation on the Eviction Prevention Program. Working as a caseworker to assist DACA, immigrants, and refugees inspired her to contribute and give more to the community that raised her. She brings to the Sunnyside Foundation several years experience in banking, relationship management and customer service. She is currently pursuing her HR certificate from Pima Community College. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends or volunteering at community events.

Sunnyside Foundation Board of Directors

Michael Barton

Board President


Dr. Brenda Granillo

President Elect

Celyna Cervantes



Nahrin Jabro


Patrick Robles

Gilbert Garcia

Louie Ramirez

bottom of page