We recognized 10 outstanding Latina leaders nominated as part of the Advancing Latina Leaders series and debuted our community “story-tellers,” activists, organizers, business and civic leaders who shared their personal journeys of how they are uplifting a new generation of leaders in our city. Our storytellers engaged in a fireside chat led by Julio Ricardo Varela from El Futuro Media Group.
March 29, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Arts and Culture Reporter for The ARTery, WGBH
Cristela Guerra is an arts and culture reporter for The ARTery. She worked for nearly four years at The Boston Globe writing human-interest features, covering everything from blizzards to arts to immigration as well as breaking news around New England. She started her career in Florida logging seven years at The News-Press where she wrote about about Cape Coral City Hall, crime, education, LGBTQ issues and business. She’s driven to understand peoples’ passions, committed to local communities and hopes to use the arts as a lens to delve deeper into stories of equity, culture, social justice and race.
STEAM Outreach Coordinator & Speaker, Systems Engineer, Mars One 100 Candidate
Yari Golden-Castaño is a systems engineer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory working on hardware and software development for optical communication systems. She is also one of 100 candidates from around the world for the Mars One Project – the first human settlement of Mars.
Yari graduated from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree of science in engineering and a minor in physics. Upon graduation, Yari joined MIT Lincoln Laboratory as a data analyst focusing on research, data evaluation, and algorithm development in the Weather Sensing and Air Traffic Control Systems Group. She has collaborated with MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation to understand the environmental effects on aviation. Most recent, in the engineering department, Yari has contributed to the design of an optical module for an expandable nano-satellite, she worked with a software team on software development and controls for a laser communication, and she is currently working as a systems engineer on the assembly, integration and testing for a laser communication system.
In 2013, Yari applied to the Mars One – Human Settlement of Mars Project. Yari has advanced through the astronaut medical exam and remote interview. Now, she prepares for the physical and psychological challenges of the remaining selection rounds to be trained full-time for a future launch and permanent settlement on Mars.
Yari recruits women and minorities for MITLL employment and organizes STEAM outreach events for students k-12 and workshops introducing engineering to girls. Yari’s astronaut candidacy brings a wider audience for promoting space exploration and STEAM education. In November 2016, Yari received the 30 Under 30 Most Influential Latinos in the Community Award from El Mundo Boston and in 2017-18, Yari’s story was highlighted in Honda’s campaign “Greatness Within Reach”.
High School Student Activist
President at Good Samaritan Medical Center -Steward Health Care
Marisela Marrero, M.D. is a Harvard-trained Emergency Room physician with an interest in developing top-tier public healthcare knowledge within the Latino community and broadening the use of proper healthcare among Hispanic people. Originally from Puerto Rico, Marisela has been living in the New England area for the past 22 years, having attained her undergraduate degree from Yale University and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She was the co-founder and chair of ALPFA Healthcare, an organization dedicated to the promotion and proliferation of Latino leaders. In addition to this, she served as the medical correspondent for both Telemundo Boston and NECN. Most recently, Marisela worked as VP of Clinical Operations at Good Samaritan Medical Center, focusing on efficiency and throughput within the hospital setting. With a sense of commitment and enthusiasm that is palpable, Marisela continues to raise the bar, and acts as a driving force at the forefront of healthcare improvement and change.
Award-winning Latin dance specialist, educator, and womanpreneur
Executive Director, Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce
Grace Moreno is a senior executive, startup nurturer, and mission-driven entrepreneur with more than 25 years’ experience leading state and national nonprofit organizations.
As executive director of the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Grace is currently fostering economic growth and viability for LGBT-owned and allied businesses, corporations, and professionals throughout the Commonwealth.
In her previous work, Grace created positive change for the underserved by fighting predatory lending practices at the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), promoting Latino civic engagement at ¿Oiste?, bringing health care reform to Massachusetts at Health Care For All, building mixed-income neighborhoods at The Community Builders, and encouraging participatory democracy at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate. Her work has ranged in helping all people no matter what their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious preference.
PROFESSIONAL DANCER AND DANCE COACH
Melisa Valdez is a professional Dancer and Dance Coach at Boston Mobile Dance Studio. A certified Zumba instructor, Melisa is a pro movement artist that dances many dance forms such as; Jazz, Hip-Hop, Merengue, Salsa, Reggae, Bachata, Samba and Cha-cha. She has also worked in the movies as a movement artist, She was the principle dancer in Scott Coopers’ Black Mass, a 2015 blockbuster with Johnny Depp and Dakota Johnson. Melisa has danced in various TV Shows and Commercials, such as; Bose Speakers, 106 & Park, Calle 8 Miami, Sucker Free Music and Adidas Shelltose commercial. She was a principle dancer in “A night with Elvis Costello”, in Live Performances; with Elvis Costello – The Revolver Tour and the Osheaga Festival, Joe Thomas – Loose Ends Tour, N.O.R.E. at Madison Square Garden, and Tiesto/Axwell at The Royale NightClub. She was also a principle dancer in music videos with Kardinal Offishall, Jim Jones, T.I., N.O.R.E., and Boston Celtics – Phunk Phenomenon.
Fireside Chat led by
JULIO RICARDO VARELA
In The Thick, Co-host
Latino Rebels, Founder
As Digital Media Director for Futuro Media, Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela works with the Latino USA team to promote the show’s episodes and expand its social reach. He is a frequent contributor to the show and the editor of the show’s official site, LatinoUSA.org. He also co-hosts In The Thick with Maria Hinojosa. In 2011, Julio founded LatinoRebels.com, one of the top U.S. Latino media sites in the world. Previously, he was digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s “The Stream” and his work has been featured in many global outlets, including the Guardian, ESPN, the New York Times, Quartz, Le Monde, WGBH, WNYC, Face the Nation, MSNBC, Fusion, Univision and Telemundo. He has made numerous national TV appearances for Latino USA and Futuro Media.
In 2015, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists honored Julio with its inaugural DALE (pronounced like Pitbull would say it) Award, given to “given to an individual or company that steps up and goes above and beyond to ensure Latinos are fairly and accurately represented.” A native of Puerto Rico, Julio spent his childhood between San Juan and the Bronx. He was also a contributing reporter at The Boston Globe. Julio graduated cum laude from Harvard College.
We are recognizing 10 outstanding Latina leaders nominated as part of the Amplify Latina Leaders series.
Managing Partner, ARCO, LLC
MassBay Community College
Claudia Ortiz is an Assistant Director of International Admissions & Compliance at MassBay Community College. Claudia holds a Master’s in Global Studies & International Relations from Northeastern University. She is originally from Guatemala and has worked in the higher education field for over 15 years. Over her tenure in this field, Claudia has been a continuing advocate for immigrant and international students. She has a strong passion for the advancement of underrepresented students, including first generation, undocumented students, and the Latino community. She is the mother of two amazing little boys, and she loves running.
Debra Joy Perez
Senior Vice President, Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity, Simmons University
Dr. Pérez is Senior Vice President for Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity at Simmons University. As Senior Vice President, Dr. Pérez is responsible for expanding Simmons’ significant programs and practices underlying the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. She serves as a strategic partner to the President and to her colleagues in building bridges and identifying and pursuing meaningful engagement with faculty, staff, students, alumnae/i and the Boston community. In collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the Deans, Dr. Pérez works to integrate inclusive excellence into the university curriculum and pedagogy, preparing faculty to teach diverse learners and preparing students to navigate diverse communities.
Prior to joining Simmons University, Dr. Pérez was the chief evaluation and learning officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF). As Chief, she worked closely with the grantmaking teams to advance the organization’s work in science, environmental conservation, patient care, and in the Bay Area. As chief evaluation, learning and monitoring officer, Dr. Pérez led a team of measurement, evaluation and monitoring officers including those embedded within the foundation’s four grantmaking programs. Dr. Pérez has extensive experience in leading research, evaluation and monitoring practices in philanthropy. She has been a leader in advancing evidence-based practices in evaluation and building new fields of research. Dr. Pérez has been involved in recruiting and developing evaluation teams across multiple program areas in three major foundations over the last twenty years.
For twenty years, Dr. Pérez worked in philanthropy to strengthen measurement, evaluation and learning, design the structures and processes to support the integration of measurement and evaluation processes with program design, adaptive management and continuous learning. She has been an advocate for transparency in philanthropy by sharing evaluation results with the public and key stakeholders, and facilitating dialogue on the foundation’s evaluation philosophy and efforts, both internally and externally.
Prior to joining Moore, Dr. Pérez was Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Learning at the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF). At AECF, Dr. Pérez was a member of the senior leadership team where she implemented new approaches for program performance measurement and management that align with program strategy and funding priorities. Prior to joining AECF, Dr. Pérez was the assistant vice president for research and evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where she focused improving the quality of healthcare, reducing disparities and building the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research
Admissions Counselor and Coordinator of the Multicultural Center at Berkshire Community College
Eleanore Velez is a diversity and inclusion champion who believes in the transformative power of education and genuine human interactions. She has over 25 years of experience working with cross-cultural initiatives. At Berkshire Community College, she has assumed a leadership role in fostering a welcoming and engaging campus for students from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds so that they are able to thrive and achieve their full potential. Through the years she has been a liaison and advocate with community agencies enhancing the dialogue that leads to deeper community integration. She is currently a board member of Barrington Stage Company and a member of the Four Freedoms Coalition.
Eleanore has received the Literacy Network of South Berkshire (LitNet) Founders of America Award, the Berkshire Immigrant Center’s Jane Addams Spirit Award and the Multicultural Competence Award from Multicultural Bridge.
Eleanore was born in Mexico. She holds an associate’s degree from Berkshire Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College.
She resides in Lee, MA.
Program Manager, Massachusetts, Generation Citizen
Ellie comes to GC from working with various urban education-based non-profit organizations, including three years at Jumpstart as a Corps Member and a Team Leader, where she led a group of college students in providing targeted and intentional supplemental curriculum to preschool children. After graduating, she invested a year of service with City Year Boston, where she spent a year growing and fostering various initiatives at a first-year turnaround elementary school in Dorchester, MA. As a Corps Member, Ellie created, delivered, and evaluated a wide array of services to students in an effort to support their academic success and inhibit the high school dropout crisis.
Ellie is inspired by Generation Citizen’s mission to provide urban youth with the adequate resources to engage with the democratic system, so that they can become active citizens and leaders. Her passion stems from her experiences with education as a low-income youth from a primarily Latino/a community in Los Angeles. She firmly believes that our democracy can grow, benefit, and change for the better through empowering youth to become advocates for their communities. She is excited to both grow with, and be an asset to the development of Generation Citizen through her role as Program Associate, and her fellowship with the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation.
Ellie hails from El Monte, CA. She graduated from UCLA where she earned a B.A. in English Literature. In her spare time, she likes to check-out local breweries, play rugby, and spend hours trying to figure out what to watch on Netflix.
Manager, Women’s Lunch Place
Maritza Rosario is internationally-experienced non-profit and public sector leader with over 20 years of public service experience. Maritza has dedicated her life to combining community activist efforts with educational- driven programs through a service-learning framework. She has developed innovative need-based programs that place people at the center of their efforts for grassroots organizations, nonprofits and public school districts.
In 2001, Maritza co-founded a student-run business program for the Chicago Public School District. The program empowers students with the skills and perspective required to engineer social consciousness. During the ten years Maritza led the program, she worked with nearly 500 students, giving them the confidence and skills, they needed to build over 400 community projects and transition into adult professional life. She has also been involved with the resettlement of thousands of refugees fleeing persecution from their countries of origin. Maritza currently is the manager of Women’s Lunch Place, a leading women’s shelter serving a diverse population experiencing homelessness and hardship in Boston. She is also a founding Board member of Y2Y Harvard Square, a shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness.
After the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Maritza led relief work and continues to lead community-based projects driven by the plight of her people, her neighborhood and her community, which has strengthened her passion for public service more than ever. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family and traveling to her homeland, Puerto Rico.
Mary Jo Marión
Vice President for Urban Affairs and the Latino Education Institute (LEI) at Worcester State University
Mary Jo Marión is Assistant Vice President for Urban Affairs and the Latino Education Institute (LEI) at Worcester State University. Under her tenure, the LEI developed new programs to increase literacy and educational outcomes among youth and families significantly increasing college enrollment and success. Mary Jo oversaw the replication of programs and services in Springfield and Southbridge. Her research interests include educational equity and disparities. She also served as Special Assistant and Chief Policy Advisor to the President of MassBay Community College; Associate Director of the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston; and Program Director for the National Council of La Raza — the nation’s premier Latino advocacy organization – where she directed research, advocacy, and legislative efforts. Ms. Marión earned her Bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University, her Master’s degree in Public Policy Studies from the University of Chicago, and completed leadership training at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She immigrated to the United States from Bolivia and committed much of her professional life to advancing policy issues affecting Latinos in the United States.
Massachusetts Rehabilitation Committee
Teury Marte is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Teury grew up on a farm without electricity and without a TV; and she was 18 years old when she walked into a library for the first time.
Growing up in a community where everyone cares about her wellbeing, Teury developed a sense of compassion and respect for humanity. She was raised in a household where work ethics, integrity, courage, humility, compassion, perseverance and respect for human dignity were embraced and have contributed to defining who she is. These fundamental values remain a continual source of inspiration in her endeavors. Her decisions are based on moral, legal and ethical principles, even when the laws, policy and procedure are as conflicted as they can be.
As an adult, she has held diverse positions in different organizations, but looking back, she sees that she has always approached work responsibilities in similar fashion in a quest to satisfy her innate drives, core values and intrinsic needs for growth and development.
Teury has been a fighter for immigrants, the homeless, veterans, quality education, green energy and healthy eating, safety and security and human rights. She has been a fearless advocate against the opioid epidemic, human trafficking, workforce development, transparency and accountability, transportation, equality, diversity and inclusion, and other basic human needs.
Owner, Tails, Inc.
Yessy Feliz is originally from Dominican Republic and migrated to the United States in her teenage years. She is a graduate of Roxbury Community College with an associate degree in Business Administration and from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in Management, she is also a recent graduate of the “Street Wise MBA Program” offered by Interise. She has over 17 years of experience in the hospitality and banking industry, deciding to leave the corporate world and turn her passion for animals as a business, creating 15 new jobs in the Jamaica Plain community and providing an opportunity to other immigrants to learn a trade in the pet industry with Tails, a facility offering doggie daycare, boarding and private walks.
She currently serves in the board of directors for Hyde Jackson Square Main Street and volunteer as a Vice President for the Hyde Park Pop Warner Football League. Currently she is designing and developing a new venture along with her fiancée to serve the underrepresented communities and its people to empower them to learn about investments, building wealth, strengthen their financial capacity and teach them about the power of financial knowledge, ensuring that wealth is being built in our communities and it becomes a reachable goal in the life of many individuals.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Excel Academy Charter Schools
Yinnette Sano currently serves as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Excel Academy Charter Schools network. In this role she has both supported school leaders and spearheaded efforts to move the network forward in strategizing and implementing programming meant to build a diverse, equitable, and Inclusive school community, one where all members, no matter their identity or background feel like they are heard, valued and that they belong. Similarly, the student facing initiatives that she has led has made room for student voice and identities to be explored and celebrated with intentionality. She first joined Excel in 2012 as one of the Directors of Post-Secondary Support. Before joining Excel, Yinnette worked as a Senior Program Trainer at The Posse Foundation. Her work for more than a decade was centered around supporting first generation college students to and through their post-secondary journeys, most who were low income and of color. This work was incredibly meaningful to her as not only did she see herself reflected in the students she served, but she herself was the recipient of very similar supports through her high school and collegiate journey. The connections made, the bridges built, and the support provided was all to have students find their voice and use it to leave imprint on the institutions that were lucky enough to have them.
Yinnette holds a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Boston College. While attending graduate school she had the privilege to work in the Student Programming Office specifically supporting the initiative put on by the campuses affinity groups who were led by incredibly motivated, creative and passionate young people. Yinnette holds a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr college and is a McPhereson Leadership award recipient and very proud to be a member of Bryn Mawr Posse 1.