Speakers list

 Frank Alvarado

Small Business Administration, Bridgeport CT office

Frank is a graduate of Albertus Magnus College and earned an MBA from the University of New Haven.  Prior to working for the SBA, Mr. Alvarado was employed by the Spanish American Merchants Association as the Director of the New Haven and Willimantic offices.  In his current capacity he assists small business owners and future entrepreneurs with all issues related to being a small business owner in Connecticut. Mr. Alvarado is also currently the Treasurer for the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus.  

 Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo

Hispanic Federation of CT 

Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo is the Hispanic Federation’s Connecticut State Director responsible for the implementation of the Hispanic Federation’s state-wide strategic goals, including the institution’s nonprofit capacity-building work, public policy advocacy and direct service programs. With over 20 years experience in nonprofit management and capacity building, she has lent dynamic cross-functional experience in high impact program development, implementation and evaluation to the nonprofit sector in New York and Connecticut. She was named one of the 50 Most Influential Latinos in Connecticut by Latinos United for Professional Excellence (LUPA) 2015.

 Wildaliz Bermudez

Hartford City Councilwoman 

Wildaliz Bermudez curently serves as Hartford City Councilwoman and Minority Leader for the Working Families Party. Councilwoman Bermudez is a Hartford native and community activist. As an original Sheff v.s. O’Neill plaintiff she has fought for the improvement of public schools in CT from a young age, and as a Policy Analyst for the City of Hartford she co-founded the Green Action Team and initiated Hartford's first Clean Energy Task Force.  Wildaliz obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in History, and her Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from La Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico.

 Miguel Castro

Meriden City Councilman 

Miguel earned a bachelor’s degree in Theology from the Eastern Hispanic District Assembly Of God Seminar (1992) Miguel is a Meriden City Councilor where he presently is the Chairman of the Finance Committee, member of the Human Services committee, Miguel is an active member of his neighborhood association The Westsiders. He has an extensive network of business, community, and civic contacts that span states and as well as both borders to the United States north and south. Miguel founded Operation Rescue, focused on providing humanitarian aid to families of several Central American countries. The program worked to feed, clothe the homeless, and deliver medical supplies through relief efforts for these families. As part of the program the organization also provided technical assistance and teaching of carpentry skills to families which led toward rehabilitation of their homes. Operation Rescue was mainly funded with all the revenues from the sales of Miguel’s book.

 Robert Cotto, Jr.

Hartford Board of Education, Director of Urban Educational Initiatives at Trinity College 

Robert Cotto, Jr. is currently the Director of Urban Educational Initiatives at Trinity College and a Lecturer in the Educational Studies department. Before his work at Trinity, he was a Senior Policy Fellow in K-12 Education for CT Voices for Children where he published reports on Connecticut’s testing system, public school choice, and K-12 education data and policy. He taught for seven years as a social studies teacher at the Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies (MLC), an interdistrict magnet school intended to provide a high-quality education and promote racial, ethnic, and economic integration. Born and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Cotto was the first in his family to go to college and he earned his B.A. degree in sociology at Dartmouth College and his Ed.M. at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He is serving his second term on the Hartford Board of Education and in the past has served as Secretary and Policy Committee Chair. 

 

 Juan Hernandez

 32BJ SEIU Connecticut District Leader

Juan Hernandez began his lifelong fight for worker rights at age 15, when he was arrested while supporting a strike for sanitation workers and nurses in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, near his home town of Vega Baja. Hernandez moved to Connecticut in 1979, finding his first position in the U.S. labor movement as a shop steward at the Weight Watchers frozen food plant in Wethersfield. In 1993 he became an organizer with SEIU Local 531, which merged with 32BJ in 2000. After working various positions in the union, Hernandez became statewide District Leader for 32BJ SEIU Connecticut in 2013, overseeing a district that includes 4,500 members working mostly as janitors and security officers in private and public buildings across the state. For most of his life, Hernandez has lived in and around Hartford, where he and his wife of 33 years raised their three children to adulthood.

 Melvin Medina

Advocacy & Outreach Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT)

Melvin J. Medina serves as Advocacy & Outreach Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT). His primary responsibility is to lead the organization’s efforts to create and maintain community engagement through education, member attainment and general outreach. In addition, he is also tasked with seeking and deepening partnerships with local community leaders and organizations in order to advance the ACLU-CT’s mission in the state. A proud member of Waterbury’s Puerto Rican community, Melvin is passionate and knowledgeable about the issues that affect disadvantaged communities in the state. Also a proud Husky, Melvin holds a B.A. degree in history from the University of Connecticut, where he received the New England Scholar award for academic excellence.

 Eloisa Melendez

City Councilwoman for the City of Norwalk

Eloisa Melendez is a twenty three year old City Councilwoman for the City of Norwalk, Connecticut. She was first elected in 2013 when she was nineteen. She is currently serving her second term. She is the chair of the Ordinance committee. Eloisa is first generation Norwalker. Her mother was born in Medellin, Colombia and her father was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents. She is a member of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus. She serves on the Board for Girl Scouts of Connecticut and the Darien/Norwalk YWCA. 

 Stephanie Mercado-Irizarry

Graduate student, Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut

Stephanie Mercado-Irizarry is a first year graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts in Latino and Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut. She received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico in 2014. Her current research includes the study of unstable employment and the displacement of communities through neo-liberal policies, how this leads to the expulsion of the population, and new forms of colonialism in Puerto Rico. Stephanie analyzes the crisis of the last decade through an interdisciplinary lens, where she analyzes how this social and political crisis is narrated and discussed through literature.

Stefanie was a primary organizer of getting the University of Connecticut Graduate Student Senate to pass a resolution in support of the UPR student strikes. 


 Julian "Zitro the Great" Ortiz

President and Founder, Homegrown Battleground Rap League

Julian Ortiz is the President and founder of CT Based Battle Rap LEague Homegrown Battleground. Born to Puerto Rican parents from NYC, Julian created the Homegrown Battleground and developed a brand that now hosts events in both CT and in Florida through the expansion of Homegrown South.  Homegrown Battleground is a battle rap league that produces high quality videos of their shows for youtube, where they garner thousands of views and requests from other leagues across the country.

  Aimee Montoya

Vive Boriken President 

Aimeé Montoya Ramírez​, President and founder of Vive Borikén. Vive Borikén is a grassroots unity movement in Puerto Rico whos mission is to unite Puerto Ricans worldwide for the cultural, environmental, and economic well-being of our motherland: Borikén (Puerto Rico). Student of The Ethical Culture Society’s renowned educational institution in New York City from grades 7-12, Aimeé's social consciousness developed at an early age. She received her bachelor’s degree at Hunter College in “Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies,” with concentrated coursework in business and economics. She currently resides in Aguada Puerto Rico.

 

 Frances G. Padilla  

President, Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Inc.  

Before assuming her current role as President of the Universal Health Care Foundation in 2012, Ms. Padilla served for 8 years as vice president for program and policy and as executive vice president. Ms. Padilla created the policy development program and stakeholder input process at the Foundation that served as the underpinnings for the landmark SustiNet legislation passed in 2009 and 2011. Ms. Padilla graduated from Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology. After completing graduate work in public administration and public policy, she received her Master’s in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Ms. Padilla is a proud resident of New Haven, with a long history of community service. She served on the New Haven Board of Education, and on the boards of The Hospital of Saint Raphael and the Community Loan Fund of Greater New Haven.  She and her husband John co-founded the Progreso Latino Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, an endowment fund created to encourage Latino giving and to promote the educational, economic and social well-being of Latinos in Greater New Haven.


 Dr. Silvia E. Rabionet

Associate Professor, Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy

Dr. Silvia E. Rabionet is an associate professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy, Department of Sociobehavioral and Administrative Pharmacy. She received a BA from Mount Holyoke College, and MA and EdD from Harvard University.

For the last thirty years, she has designed and administered numerous public and private training and faculty development grants in the fields of tobacco cessation, public health preparedness, HIV/AIDS, and mentoring, among others. She has developed and implemented competency based models for health workforce development. She has have actively participated with the CDC, PAHO, WHO and other local, regional and international networks and associations in the development of materials and technical reports for workforce development and continuing education.

She is co-investigator in the first Trans-Caribbean prospective research on adherence to HAART among HIV patients. The project, sponsored by the NIH Office of AIDS Research, was launched in 2013 in three countries. She has published about public health history and education, mentoring, and sociobehavioral aspects of drug use.

  Rose Reyes

Educator and Advocate

Rose Reyes is an advocate of public schools, bilingual education and community development. She is working to transform education policy to reflect the needs of local communities. Rose has provided testimony for legislators, participated in panel discussions, and has provided professional development for school districts and University communities.

  Joseph Rodriguez

Deputy State Director for U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal 

Joe is currently Senator Blumenthal's Deputy State Director where he oversees office operations for the Senator’s Hartford and Bridgeport offices. He is the highest level Latino working for a congressional office in Connecticut. From 2011 to 2014, Joe also served as a Connecticut Outreach Organizer for  Senator Richard Blumenthal where he was a liaison between the Senator's constituency and his Hartford and Washington DC Offices.  During this time, he played a key role in decisions around immigration, housing, and minority small business. One of Joe’s proudest moments was attending President Obama’s Bill Signing on the passage of the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Act which was held at the White House.


 Daisy Torres

Director of Bilingual Programs, New London Public Schools

Daisy Torres is the Director of Bilingual Programs, English to Speakers of Other Languages, World Languages, and Parent Engagement for New London Public Schools. She currently oversees programming and compliance for over 800 English Learners, leads parent engagement intitiatives, and develops magnet pathway programming for New London’s first and only all-magnet school district.

A native of Meriden, CT, Daisy has been an educator for over 20 years and is a passionate advocate of social justice and equity for students. She is a member of the Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALAS), the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut, and the national Associaton of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) organization.

Daisy is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish, a Master of Artes Degree in TESOL, Multicultural, and Bilingual Education, and a Sixth Year Professional Diploma of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership.  

 Carlos Antonio Torre

Professor of Education at SCSU; Immediate Past-President of the New Haven Connecticut Board of Education

Carlos Antonio Torre earned three graduate degrees at Harvard University in Human Development and in Administration, Planning and Social Policy: an Ed.M.; a Certificate of Advance Studies (CAS); and a Doctorate of Education. He is Professor of Education at Southern Connecticut State University; Immediate Past-President of the New Haven, Connecticut Board of Education (currently President of the City-Wide School-Building and Stewardship Committee); and a Fellow at Yale University, where he served seven years as Assistant Dean of the Undergraduate College and a member of the Psychology faculty.

Dr. Torre is an elected member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico and was awarded the Academy’s Medal of the Academician. Other awards include: the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences’ first award for "humanitarian, ground-breaking contributions to the understanding of the mind through the application of dynamical science perspectives to educational psychology"; the Connecticut Association of Latin Americans in Higher Education (CALAHE) award "for contributions made toward the improvement of educational opportunities for Hispanics in higher education"; and others.

 

 



 Yanil Terón,

Executive Director of the Center for Latino Progress


Yanil Terón has been at the helm of the Center for Latino Progress – CPRF as its Executive Director since 2007, and has served in various capacities with The Center since 2000. Under her leadership, The Center has expanded its workforce programming and presented its models at national conferences. During Ms. Terón’s tenure, The Center has increased its visibility by strategically engaging, collaborating, and expanding its relationships with local, state, and national organizations. Under her direction, The Center has worked in conjunction with the Connecticut Secretary of State, Hispanic Federation, National Council of La Raza and NALEO Educational Fund to register new voters and GOTV campaigns.

Ms. Terón served two terms as the elected Northeast Council Representative to the National Council of La Raza.  Ms. Terón was appointed to the Connecticut State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She is an active member of the Connecticut Women Council.

Ms. Terón has an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Public Communication from the University of Puerto Rico, holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Baruch College, and is an accredited Board of Immigration Appeals representative.

  Ana Valentin-Jackson
Board Chair Puerto Rican Parade, Hartford

Ana Valentin-Jackson is the current Board Chair for Connecticut Institute for Community Development – Puerto Rican Parade, Inc. in Hartford and is the Founder of Cultura Mosaica, Inc., a nonprofit organization aiming at promoting Latino culture and heritage in the community. Ana earned her BS in Communications from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2010 where she was inducted into the Lambda Pi Eta Communications Honor Society. Prior to becoming a consultant, she worked for the Hartford Housing Authority, Girl Scouts of Connecticut (formerly Connecticut Valley Girl Scouts Council), Greater Hartford Arts Council, and Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity and Leadership Greater Hartford. Ana resides in Manchester, CT with her husband.

 Julio López Varona

State Director, Make the Road CT

Julio is the State Director of Make the Road CT and has helped the organization go from monthly meetings with 10-15 members to a thriving organizing hub with 5 active campaigns and a growing membership base with regular weekly meetings where 30-40 members eat, share and plan the next steps of their campaigns. Born in the “island of enchantment” Julio received his undergraduate degree and Juris Doctor at the University of Puerto Rico. He later received his LLM on International and Comparative Law at Tulane Law School and received training in arbitration and conflict resolution at Humboldt University in Berlin. After law school, he served as a law clerk for the Orleans Public Defenders and helped develop a system of advocacy dockets that ensured that recently arrested citizens were properly represented. Later on, Julio worked with the New Orleans Independent Police Monitor to create a mediation program between citizens and the police. In 2012, he moved to Connecticut where he became a union organizer and helped secure a historic contract that guaranteed pay raises, a paid time of fund and training opportunities to 7,000 home care workers. 

 

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