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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. 

Meet The Team

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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.

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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.

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Laura Corrales


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.

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Program & Operations Coordinator

Mia Ruiz is a proud native of Tucson, dedicated to making a difference in her community through over a decade of non-profit work in education and family services. With a passion for empowering families and advocating for access to education and wellness, Mia has been instrumental in co-producing community-driven projects that prioritize the voices of those she serves. Embracing expertise from various domains of impact, including early childhood education, children’s literacy, community outreach, parent advisory groups and resource center leadership. Mia’s commitment to collaboration and community engagement has equipped her with key insights into investing in the betterment of neighborhoods alongside those who call them home. In addition to her professional endeavors, Mia remains deeply rooted in her cultural heritage, upholding the traditions of the Nahua people within the Calpolli Teoxicalli in Tlamanalco. She carries these values with her as she fulfills her duty to foster vibrant neighborhoods in Tucson. Outside of her work, Mia finds joy in spending quality time with her loved ones, especially her daughter Brissa, husband Adrien, and their beloved dog, Yohualli.

Sunnyside Foundation Board of Directors

Dr. Brenda Granillo 

Board President


Patrick Robles

President Elect

Celyna Cervantes



Gilbert Garcia


Michael Barton


Raul Aguirre Emeritus

Louie Ramirez

Cassandra Becerra

Eddie Barrón

Jennifer Overpeck

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