Summit Speaker Bios
Listed in alphabetical order by last name.
JULIE CASTRO ABRAMS
CEO · How Women Lead | General Partner · How Women Invest
Julie Castro Abrams is an expert in board governance and recruitment of diverse candidates. She is a Co-Founder of BoardLeaders.com where she actively places leaders on corporate boards and supports them to build inclusive and high-performance boards. She is Chair and CEO of How Women Lead, a network of over 14,000 women dedicated to promoting diverse women’s voices and propelling women’s leadership forward. As the prior Managing Partner for the 2020 Women on Boards Bay Area effort, Julie helped spearhead the national effort to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards. She is an advisor to the State of California and the First Partner office on the roll out of the California legislation.
An experienced CEO, she is a trusted advisor to dozens of executives across a multitude of sectors, partnering with and launching them towards greater impact. Through her consulting practice, Julie creates high-performance boards, high impact brands, and high production, multicultural teams. Julie is also the founder and General Partner of How Women Invest, an early stage venture firm focused on high growth, tech enabled women-founded enterprises. The firm is a culmination of her lifetime of work propelling women founders to launch and find success with training, capital and networks. She is bringing her extensive networks, leadership and entrepreneurship experience to disruption of the venture landscape.
ASSEMBLYMEMBER CECILIA AGUIAR-CURRY
California State Assembly
In November 2016, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry was elected to the California Assembly to represent the 4th District that includes all or parts of Napa, Lake, Yolo, Sonoma, Colusa and Solano counties. Cecilia grew up in western Yolo County and has long served her community. After going to school and working in the Bay Area for several years, she moved back to her hometown of Winters where she almost immediately became active in the local community and a regional leader on several issues. She first served as planning commissioner and then was elected to the city council eventually serving as the first female mayor of Winters.
While growing up, Cecilia was surrounded by agriculture. As a youth, she cut apricots in the packing shed and helped her father in the walnut orchards in the area. She is still involved in local agriculture to this day as she and her brothers own an 80-acre walnut orchard.
Director of Education Policy and Outcomes · WestEd
Lupita Cortez Alcalá is Director of Education Policy and Outcomes within WestEd’s Early Childhood Integrated Systems and Policies team. She has 20 years of experience championing better educational outcomes for the children and adults of California, and more than a decade in government affairs for pre-K–12 and higher education.
Most recently, Alcalá served as the first Latina Chief Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education. She has also been Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission, becoming a prominent voice in the statewide discussion on college affordability and financial aid reform. Alcalá also served as member and chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.
She has helped promote and implement programs for early education, English learners, migrant students, career pathways, Linked Learning, workforce, and STEM. Her leadership in these areas included partnering with pre-K–12 and higher education stakeholders, policymakers, and foundations. Alcalá holds a BA in Political Science from University of California, San Diego, and an MEd from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Regional Vice President · Pacific Gas and Electric Company | HLI '02
As one of PG&E's senior leaders in the field every day, she will be accountable for delivering high-quality performance to our customers and ensuring the safety, availability, and reliability of regional operations for our hometowns. The Regional Vice Presidents live and work in their regions, close to the customers they are dedicated to serving, so that they can build strong collaborative relationships and develop solutions to operational issues based on a deep understanding of local needs.
Alvarado has 20 years of executive experience in the energy and water sectors and has held civic leadership roles focused on environmental justice and equity. She currently chairs the California Water Commission, which provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Director of the Department of Water Resources, monitors and reports on the construction and operation of the State Water Project and distributes $2.7 billion for the public benefits of water storage projects.
Executive Director · Alliance for a Better Community | HLI '07
Vanessa has spent her career working with communities to improve policies at the local, state, and federal level by building power to create lasting and positive systemic change. She brings nearly 20 years of experience working as senior staff for the California State Legislature and the United States Congress as well as leading local and statewide non-profit organizations including California Partnership at the Center for Community Change. Her experience working in coalitions with hundreds of community-based groups, organizing families in urban and rural regions, from campsites to local city halls, Sacramento and Washington DC has led to various victories for underserved communities. She has created programs developing hundreds of active community leaders, produced effective advocacy plans, and cultivated electoral power in key, under-represented communities.
Vanessa has worked on various policy advocacy efforts and campaigns from the local school district level on increasing parental engagement, delivering a more equitable state budget in California, to healthcare and immigration reform at the national level. Vanessa has also worked on state ballot measures providing outreach strategies as well as communications for political campaigns targeting low-propensity voters in communities of color. She served on the Executive Committee of Reclaim CA’s Future, which qualified Proposition 30, the most progressive tax measure in the country which help save California’s economy. She is a native Angeleno and received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UCLA. She lives with her family in Northeast Los Angeles.
Sr. Program Officer · California Community Foundation (CCF) | HOPE Board Chair | HLI '07
For almost two decades, Rosie has dedicated her career to the educational and civic empowerment of underserved communities. Since joining the California Community Foundation (CCF), Rosie has spearheaded a number of multisector, civic engagement initiatives to advance systems change policies. Currently at CCF, Rosie oversees the foundation’s Immigrant Integration portfolio with the goal of empowering immigrants to thrive civically, economically and socially. Promoting just and inclusive policies in Los Angeles County is at the center of Rosie’s work.
This includes overseeing the Los Angeles Justice Fund (LAJF), a $10M public-private partnership between the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, the Weingart Foundation, and CCF to expand legal representation for immigrants in removal proceedings. In addition to her work in immigration, Rosie played a leadership role in the development of a regional, multi-sector coalition known as the Early Childhood Alliance that seeks to ignite and lead a movement to advance the issue of early care and education (ECE) in L.A. County. With the support of her leadership, the Coalition has established an influential collaborative table for the ECE field in L.A. County that helps to identify, advance, and amplify local advocacy efforts that raise awareness and urgency among policymakers, parents, voters, and the general public.
President & CEO · Alchemia | 2019 Binational Fellow
Lourdes Berho is an entrepreneur, activist, wife and mother of four with senior experience in both public and private sectors. With a double degree in Business Administration and Advertising at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, and graduate studies in Finance, Sustainability and Digital Marketing, Lourdes has been an indisputable growth leader for important global companies for over 25 years. Her professional career focuses on senior management, business development, media, strategic marketing communications, travel and tourism, luxury, sustainability and international NGOs. She is currently President and CEO of Alchemia Communications Group, an agency of integrated marketing that she founded in 2011, and member of the Tourism Diplomacy Board, an organism installed by the Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs of the Federal Government of Mexico. Since 2018 she is also Regional Director of Brand USA in Mexico and Latin America.
In 2016 she was appointed by the President and Secretary of Tourism to head the Mexico Tourism Board, and held that position through April 2017, after implementing a whole new marketing and innovation destination culture for Mexico and achieving the best visitors and expenditure levels ever reached for her country. Lourdes worked closely with national and international airlines and CVBs to generate 2 million airline new seats from international feeder markets to Mexico for 2017 with her 23 Country Managing Directors and travel trade partners. Prior to that, she occupied several C-Suite level positions in leading international companies, including VP of Premium Marketing at Citibanamex; CEO of Condé Nast Mexico and Latin America for over 5 years, quickly positioning it as the top luxury magazine editorial firm in Mexico and Latin America; and CEO of Publicitas Promotion Network and CMG (Custom Marketing Group) for Mexico and Latin America for 14 years, positioning international most prestigious publishing global brands. Her marketing communications experience started 28 years ago when she held Hill and Knowlton’s US West Coast PR for Mexico Ministry of Tourism and Fonatur (The Tourism Development Arm), held in Los Angeles CA. In July 2019, Lourdes Berho was nominated to participate in the HOPE Binational Fellowship, that empowers women leaders in Mexico and the United States of America. She is frequently invited as a speaker on travel and tourism, marketing and women’s issues in several international forums, as well as an activist in social and pro-women causes: she is an active member of the Advisory Board for Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, co-founder and VP board member of Casa Hogar Alegría IAP, member of the Advisory Board of Conservation International Mexico and Operación Bendición.
ASSEMBLYMEMBER WENDY CARRILLO
California State Assembly | HLI '09
Wendy Carrillo represents California’s 51st State Assembly District, encompassing East Los Angeles, Northeast L.A., and the neighborhoods of El Sereno, Echo Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown, and parts of Silver Lake. She is the first Latina to represent her district. Assemblywoman Carrillo immigrated to the United States during El Salvador’s Civil War, and was an undocumented child until the age of 13. She became an American citizen at 21 and was the first in her family to vote. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from California State University, L.A., and Masters in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Southern California.
Prior to being elected in December 2017, Assemblywoman Carrillo was a broadcast journalist and managed Public Affairs for the Service Employee International Union Local that represents 350,000 California long-term care workers.
As Chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Budget, Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration, Assemblywoman Carrillo championed and secured the expansion of the state’s COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant program , a tax cut for California's hardest hit small businesses, direct cash payments to two-thirds of Californians – both residents with ITINs and Social Security Numbers – in the form of Golden State Stimulus checks, historic funding to bolster the state’s response to the homelessness crisis, environmental cleanup and climate change preparedness, Universal Pre-K by 2024, college savings accounts for 3.7 million kids, paid sick leave, relief for one year's worth of back rent and utilities, reparations for survivors of forced sterilization, and more.
LUPITA SANCHEZ CORNEJO
1st Vice Chair of the HOPE Board | HLI '00
Lupita Sánchez Cornejo is director of external affairs for AT&T, focusing on legislative and community affairs for the Los Angeles region. In this role, she serves as the company’s governmental liaison for elected and administrative officials in the City of Los Angeles. She is also responsible for legislative activities and issues involving the Los Angeles Board of Education. Ms. Cornejo joined AT&T California in 2000. She represents the company on a variety of organizations and boards, including the California Forensic Science Institute at California State University, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Community Development Department’s Community Advisory Board; the California Hispanic Corporate Council; the Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Advisory Council; and PADRES Contra El Cáncer (Parents Against Cancer). Prior to joining AT&T, Ms. Cornejo served as assistant deputy mayor to Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan and as the mayor’s key liaison to the Latino community. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science and a Master of Public Administration from USC. In 1994, she was named to USC’s Order of Troy for her academic excellence, leadership and extraordinary service and commitment.
Managing Member & General Partner · How Women Invest
Ms. Cramer is a 25-year veteran investment banker in the financial services industry having focused on mergers and acquisitions within the asset management, wealth advisory and fintech solution sectors. Over the course of her career, she advised on over 52 transactions representing over $240 billion in assets under management in consolidations. Ms. Cramer has also advised public and privately held financial services firms on valuations, recapitalizations, incentive compensation structures and succession planning. Ms. Cramer is a Managing Member of How Women Invest, a gender-lensed venture firm investing in early-stage tech-enabled startups. She is an experienced board director having served four years with Atlanta Life Insurance Company where she acted as audit chair and drafted the audit charter for the reinsurance affiliate.
She is an Advisory Director for OpenInvest, a venture backed fintech platform serving turnkey asset management platforms, investment managers and the wealth management industry. She supported OpenInvest’s most recent capital raise having brought strategic investors to the capital table. Ms. Cramer also serves on Trips for Kids Marin, a non-profit board, where she oversaw recruitment of executive directors and board directors, and fundraising activities. Ms. Cramer mentors accomplished women seeking board director positions and is a member of the Athena Alliance, NACD, 100 Women in Finance and How Women Lead. Along with her husband, Ms. Cramer is engaged with their second-generation single family office, which includes a family foundation. The combination of her advisory, investment and compliance background support corporate boards seeking financial stewardship and strategic growth initiatives.
SENATOR MELISA LOPEZ FRANZEN
Minnesota State Senate | 2018 Binational Fellow
Senator Melisa López Franzen is serving her third term in the Minnesota Senate. Senator López Franzen represents Senate District 49 serving the suburban Minneapolis communities of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, and Edina. She lives in Edina with her husband Nathan and sons Philip (5) and Arthur (4).
At the Capitol, she serves as the Senate Assistant Minority Leader, is the lead on the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, and serves on the Finance, and Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committees. She is also a member of the Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research. She serves as the Finance Chair of the Minnesota Senate DFL Caucus and is a member of NALEO and the National Hispanic Caucus of Legilsators. She is the Co-Founder and President of NewPublica, a public relations and strategic communications firm. She started her career as an attorney at Target Corporation for eight years where she held several roles, titles, and responsibilities in Target’s Government Affairs and Community Relations division. Senator López Franzen holds a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in Economic and Community Development from the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota and holds a J.D. from Hamline University’s School of Law.
Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative & Marketing Officer · NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises
Mónica Gil is Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative and Marketing Officer of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, the leading media company serving the 60 million Latinos living in the U.S. In this role, she is responsible for the operations, growth marketing, and strategy and insights for the company. Additionally, Gil oversees Corporate Communications, Corporate Affairs, Government Affairs, Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. She reports to Beau Ferrari, Chairman, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, and plays a key strategic and operational role on his executive team.
Since joining Telemundo in 2017, Gil is credited for transforming the company’s marketing organization and helping drive its rise to become the number one Spanish-language network for three consecutive years. During her tenure, she has overseen marketing and communication campaigns for Telemundo’s assets across its broadcast, cable and digital properties. She also played a critical role in the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ strategy that led Telemundo Deportes to record-setting viewership across all platforms.
ADMINISTRATOR ISABEL GUZMAN
U.S. Small Business Administration | Honorary HLI
Isabel Casillas Guzman serves as the 27th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and was sworn in on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Administrator Guzman represents the more than 30 million U.S. small businesses and is committed to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs start, grow and be resilient.
A lifelong proponent of small businesses, Guzman grew up as the daughter of a small business owner and learned at a young age how important small businesses are to the communities they serve, the people they employ, and the economies they help power.
Administrator Guzman previously served as Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, a position she held after being appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in April 2019. In that role, she served as the voice of small businesses and innovative startups in the 5th largest economy in the world. She administered and advocated for programs and initiatives to help small businesses access capital, markets, and networks for stronger outcomes. She and her team helped connect entrepreneurs in every community with the resources needed. As the economic recovery support function coordinator for the state, she focused on resilience and most recently worked to help small businesses access relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Division Order Landman · California Resources Corporation | HLI '18
As Senior Division Order Landman, Palmira does more than interpret title ownership and calculate ownership interest for California Resources Corporation. With over a decade of natural resource regulatory experience, she’s obsessed with developing community partnerships and paving the way for results-oriented project planning.
Palmira has a Master of Legal Studies in Energy and Natural Resources Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. She enjoys mentoring students and spending time making kombucha with her family on her spare time.
Appointments Secretary · Office of Governor Gavin Newsom | Honorary HLI Inductee
Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez was appointed by Governor Newsom in June 2019 to serve as Appointments Secretary.
Prior to her appointment, Ms. Rivera-Hernandez served three administrations as a Board Member on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board beginning with her appointment by Governor Davis in November 2002. Prior to joining the ALRB, Ms. Rivera-Hernandez served as the Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Governor Gray Davis. As Chief Deputy, Ms. Rivera-Hernandez served as the Governor’s liaison to various state agencies, departments and boards including the Health and Human Services Agency, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Emergency Services and Department of Food and Agriculture. As a member of the Cabinet office, Ms. Rivera-Hernandez was responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of administration policy and legislative initiatives within the agencies. Ms. Rivera-Hernandez also served as special legal counsel, working closely with the Legal Affairs Secretary on significant legal matters arising within the agencies and departments.
Ms. Rivera-Hernandez received a B.S. in Business Management from Arizona State University and obtained her law degree from Boalt Hall at the University of California, Berkeley where she was co-editor-in-chief of the La Raza Law Journal.
SENATOR MONIQUE LIMON
California State Senate | 2018 Binational Fellow
Senator Monique Limón was elected to the Senate in November 2020 and represents the 19th Senate district that includes all of Santa Barbara County and over half of Ventura County. Born and raised in the 19th district, Monique has worked continuously to serve her community as an educator, leader, and an advocate for causes advancing the quality of life in her community. Before the State Senate, Monique served as the Assemblymember for District 37th. Serving four years in the State Assembly, Monique Chaired the Banking and Finance Committee and was the Vice-Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
For Monique, education has always been a priority. A UC Berkeley graduate with a Masters degree from Columbia University, Monique served two terms on the Santa Barbara Unified School Board and as Assistant Director for the McNair Scholars Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara prior to serving in the Senate. Monique has worked with countless local students at Santa Barbara City College and UCSB as an advisor and mentor to help them achieve their professional and academic goals through higher education.
President & CEO · Denver Preschool Program | 2018 Binational Fellow
Elsa Holguín is the President and CEO of the Denver Preschool Program and oversees all organization activities and, in consultation with the board of directors, provides direction and leadership toward the achievement of DPP’s overall mission, vision and strategic plan.
Elsa grew up in a small town in Chihuahua, Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 17. Elsa learned English while attending high school and college in Denver, where she worked as an intern in the nonprofit sector. That internship eventually led her to the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, and then to Rose Community Foundation where she served as the senior program officer for Child & Family Development for 21 years.
Elsa played an instrumental role in the creation of Early Milestones Colorado, the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, the Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative, Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood, Borealis Philanthropy, and the Skills to Compete Coalition. A former member and co-chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, Elsa currently serves on the board of Tools of the Mind and the Preschool Policy Leadership Committee. Elsa’s pride and joy are her husband, two daughters, three stepsons, and four grandchildren.
Director, Office of Racial Equity · City of San Jose | HLI '12
Zulma Maciel is the Director of San Jose’s Office of Racial Equity, where she aims to institutionalize equity and support sustainable, transformational change so that, ultimately, Black and Brown communities experience better outcomes. Her diverse leadership experiences, track record of authentic community partnerships, results-driven approach, and commitment to racial justice has enabled Zulma to live out her calling in this new role.
Zulma has served the public for over two decades in various capacities, such as policy development, administration, and management of a $15M grant portfolio. In 2015, she became the first Director of San Jose’s Office of Immigrant Affairs committed to creating an environment of belonging and service to immigrants and refugees. Collaboratively with community partners, Zulma developed the City’s first Welcoming San Jose Plan that outlined an ambitious set of goals and strategies in service of immigrants and refugees.
Former U.S. Treasurer Under President George W. Bush | HLI '01
Rosario Marin was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on January 31, 2006 to serve as Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency. Prior to this appointment, Ms. Marin served as full-time member of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger on April 22, 2004 to represent the public. On September 21, 2004, Ms. Marin was unanimously elected Board Chair. In 2004, Cal EPA Secretary Alan Lloyd appointed Ms. Marin to head the California – Baja California Border Environmental Program. In addition, Ms. Marin served as a member of the U.S. EPA Border 2012 program.
Ms. Marin was appointed Treasurer of the United States by President George W. Bush in 2001 and served until 2003. As U.S. Treasurer, Ms. Marin's duties included oversight of the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. In addition, she spearheaded the Treasury's financial literacy outreach efforts and served as a member of the Partnership for Prosperity efforts between the U.S. and Mexico, as well as the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
Founder and Chair · FundaMental Change
Angela Padilla is a passionate advocate for ensuring every family has access to mental health information, education, and treatment. Angela's commitment is rooted in her personal experience with mental health. For nearly forty years, Angela's mother has struggled with bipolar disorder. As a result, Angela became an avid consumer of mental health information at a young age which motivated her to earn a degree in Psychology. She learned that even in the age of the internet, accurate and reliable mental health information could be complex for consumers to find.
Today, Angela is the Founder and Chair of FundaMental Change, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma about mental health, and improving the quality and accessibility of resources for people living with a mental health condition. Angela also believes that we must support the families and caregivers of people living with mental health conditions because they are crucial in identifying mental health conditions and obtaining appropriate treatment. As part of her advocacy, Angela publicly shares her unique perspectives and experiences with a diverse range of audiences by speaking at schools, community organizations, and special events. She is currently attending California State University Northridge where she is working towards earning an MPA/HA degree in 2022.
Angela lives in the San Fernando Valley with her husband, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, and their three sons Roman, Alex and Diego.
Manager, California State Government Affairs · Marathon | Summit Co-Chair | HLI '99
Nicole M. Parra has more than 25 years of extensive legislative and political experience in Washington D.C. and California-having served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Congressman Cal Dooley (retired), elected to the California State Assembly, and appointed to a high- level position within the California Executive Branch by the Governor.
In 2002 Parra was elected to the California State Assembly, representing the 30th Assembly District. In the California State Assembly, Parra served as Chair of the Agriculture Committee, Joint Legislative Audit Committee and Veteran Affairs Committee. She also served on the Banking & Finance, Insurance, and Water Parks and Wildlife Committees
Head of Public Policy and Communications · UBER | Summit Co-Chair | HLI '17
Ramona Prieto is the Head of Public Policy and Communications for the Western United States at Uber. Managing the territory team and playing an integral role in helping lead and shape Uber’s policy portfolio; focused on state and local policy work, regulatory engagement, and media relations. Before joining Uber, Ramona led Government Affairs and Policy work at Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation; dedicated to energy policy, stakeholder engagement, and public affairs. She has more than ten years working in politics, government, coalition building, and public affairs.
Ramona holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from California State University Chico, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Copenhagen Business School. She lives in San Francisco with her family.
SECRETARY LOURDES CASTRO RAMIREZ
Secretary · California Business, Consumer Services & Housing Agency | HLI '04
California Governor Newsom appointed Lourdes Castro Ramírez to serve as Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency on March 2, 2020. She leads and oversees 11 entities responsible for expanding affordable housing, developing comprehensive solutions to end homelessness, guarding civil rights protections, regulating banking and financial services, and strengthening consumer protections with the licensing of nearly 4 million working professionals.
Secretary Castro Ramírez currently serves on the California Strategic Growth Council, the California Housing Finance Agency Board, chairs the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, and has been actively engaged in the state’s COVID-19 response and recovery serving on the Governor’s Business and Jobs Taskforce.
Secretary Castro Ramírez has held notable and prominent positions including being appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Public and Indian Housing, President and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority, Director at the LA City Housing Authority overseeing rental assistance and resident development programs, and most recently serving as the President University Health System Foundation in San Antonio.
SUPERVISOR BELIA RAMOS
Napa County Board of Supervisors | HLI '01
Belia is a business owner, professor of law and a community advocate. Belia attended St. Helena public schools from kindergarten through high school. She graduated from Saint Mary's College of California in 1999 and University of California (UC) Hastings College of the Law in 2004. Upon her admission to the State Bar of California, Belia worked as a civil litigator and employment counselor, advising Fortune 500 companies on labor and employment policies and procedures.
In 2008, Belia founded Raise The Bar, LLC, a writing company that prepares applicants for the California Bar Exam. She has been a Bar tutor since 2006. Prior to that, she served as a grader for the California Bar Exam. Belia also teaches writing at UC Davis School of Law. In 2012, Governor Brown appointed Belia to the 25th District Agricultural Association, known as the Napa Valley Expo Town and Country Fair. From 2010-2016, Belia served as a member of the American Canyon City Council, where she focused on transportation, economic development, public art, public safety, and community engagement. Her community involvement includes the incorporation and governance of nonprofit organizations, such as Napa Valley Crime Stoppers and others.
Dean, Workforce & Economic Development · Santa Monica College | HLI '01
Patricia Ramos is dean of workforce and economic development for Santa Monica College. As the administrative leader in academic affairs over career technical education, she develops partnerships with business, labor and other educational institutions to align SMC's career technical education programs to the current and projected workforce needs of the Los Angeles region. Her prior roles at SMC include director of the Small Business Development Center; her career in higher education has been enhanced by her successful business ownership. Ramos is commissioner and board officer on the L.A. County Workforce Development Board. She is a fellow of the National Hispana Leadership Institute and Hispanas Organized for Political Equality Leadership Institute. She also serves on many educational and workforce committees locally and statewide. Ramos earned her master's in educational counseling from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California.
Executive Vice President & Chief Customer Officer · Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E)
Marlene Santos is Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). She is responsible for a broad range of services and teams that support the more than 16 million people PG&E serves in Northern and Central California. This includes PG&E’s customer contact centers; programs supporting energy efficiency, electric vehicles, rooftop solar, demand response and low-income customers; billing, metering and account services; marketing and communications; and Regional Leadership Teams that PG&E will form as part of its regionalization efforts.
Santos joined PG&E in 2021 after nearly four decades with NextEra Energy, Inc., most recently as President of Gulf Power Company, a subsidiary of NextEra. Prior to that, she served as NextEra's Chief Integration Officer for the company's acquisition of Gulf Power and two other acquisitions. She also served in several other senior operational and leadership roles including Vice President, Customer Service for Florida Power & Light Company. Santos has a wide breath of experience including delivering best-in-class customer service, safety improvements, digital transformation, smart grid enablement, data analytics and artificial intelligence deployment, cultural transformation and emergency response to natural disasters. Santos holds a bachelor's degree in finance and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami.
President, The Campaign for College Opportunity | Honorary HLI
Michele Siqueiros was the first in her family to graduate from college. She is passionate about the power of college to change lives, and the ability of policy making to expand opportunity. Since 2008, she has served as the President of The Campaign for College Opportunity, and has led historic higher education policy budget and legislative reforms in California that make it easier for students to transfer from community college to a four year university, access college level courses and financial aid. The Campaign has successfully secured millions of additional state dollars to expand student enrollment and improve student outcomes and championed efforts to increase access to Pell Grants, protect Cal Grant funding, support undocumented students, and reform community college pathways. Prior to joining the Campaign in 2004, Michele worked for the City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, she helped co-found Public AlliesLos Angeles in 1998, and worked for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
Michele has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pitzer College and a Master of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2019 she was appointed by Senate Pro Tem Leader Atkins to the Student Centered Funding Formula Oversight Committee. In 2020 Governor Newsom asked her to serve on the California Higher Education Recovery with Equity Taskforce. She previously served on the California Student Aid Commission as a gubernatorial appointee and on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners as a Mayoral appointee from 2005-2010.
Senior Vice President · Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield | Honorary HLI Inductee
Margita Thompson is currently Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), the premier global real estate developer and operator of flagship destinations redefining how people come together. As the communications lead for the United States, she works to extend the company’s influence in the ever-evolving world of retail, restaurants, travel and events while increasing employee engagement. Margita is especially skilled at listening and anticipating trends to uncover the common thread that unites diverse stakeholders toward a common goal.
Previously Margita was Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at energy company California Resources Corporation (CRC). She focused on driving unexpected employee and community engagement that increased stakeholder credibility and business impact. Before CRC, Thompson was Vice President, External Communications for Disney Consumer Products (DCP) leading PR teams spanning Disney Publishing, The Disney Stores, and DCP Licensing - the world's largest licensor. While at Disney, Margita brought diverse women’s voices inside DCP to maintain the relevance of the “princess” franchise. Prior, she was Vice President for Corporate Communications and Latino Programs Officer at Health Net Inc. where she increased Latino health plan membership through a multi-generational, whole-household strategy.
CONGRESSWOMAN NORMA TORRES
United States House of Representatives
Congresswoman Norma J. Torres represents California's 35th congressional district which includes Bloomington, Chino, Fontana, Montclair, Ontario, Pomona, and Rialto. She previously served as a State Senator, Assembly Member, and as a Mayor and Council Member in the City of Pomona. Throughout her career in elected office, Norma Torres has worked to make government more responsive to the needs of Inland Empire residents.
As a State Senator, Torres played a significant role in making the Affordable Care Act work for California’s patients and consumers. She led efforts to increase access to care and improve the quality of care in underserved areas. Her law to diversify Covered California so that it is better prepared to enroll the uninsured earned her statewide recognition and national attention. She also championed a law to generate more revenue for programs that train and place doctors in medically underserved communities. Understanding that our healthcare system often results in many prescription drug patients paying more for treatments than is necessary, Torres passed a consumer protection law that requires health insurance companies to be more transparent in the way they present information about prescription drugs covered by their plans.
Chief Executive Officer · Hispanas Organized for Political Equality | HLI '99
Helen Torres is the Executive Director of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) where she supervises and manages the day-to-day operations. Ms. Torres has over twenty years of alliance building, community relations, marketing, and fundraising experience and expertise. Her primary focus is the achievement of HOPE’s vision to inspire and empower Latina Leadership.
Prior to joining HOPE, Ms. Torres was a community relations officer for United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the largest private funder of health and human services in Los Angeles County; she lead community outreach efforts and managed new business development. Her major responsibilities included recruiting volunteers to assist in resource development and the creation of community based programs. Ms. Torres previously worked at Laufer Associates, a Los Angeles marketing and communication firm. There she managed a public education account and supervised six subcontractors for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works House Hazardous Waste Public Education. The account won a 1996 “Prism” award from the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
SUSAN SIFUENTES TRIGUEROS
Senior Regional Affairs Manager · Southern California Gas Company
Susan Sifuentes Trigueros is a highly skilled Public Relations professional with twenty-five years of experience in corporate, governmental, community, and media relations. She joined the Southern California Gas Company after graduating from college. Prior to her current position in External Affairs, Susan held several positions the company’s External Affairs, Accounting and Human Resources departments. In her capacity as Senior Regional Public Affairs Manager, she is responsible for the Public Affairs’ and local community giving strategies in the Los Angeles County area. She and her professional team work to educate and build alliances with LA area business partners, elected officials and community leaders as the company advances its mission to build the cleanest, safest and most innovative energy company in America.
Susan attended the University of Southern California where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting. Susan also serves on numerous community and business boards and advisory councils. She has received several awards and recognition for her community and advocacy work.
SUPERVISOR NORA VARGAS
Vice Chair · San Diego County Board of Supervisors | HLI '01
Supervisor Nora Vargas was sworn in on January 4, 2021, as the first Latina, first immigrant, and first woman of color in the history of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. She was unanimously elected Vice-Chair of the Board by her peers.
Vice Chair Vargas is Co-Chair of the County's COVID-19 subcommittee and is leading efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and focus on economic recovery, from an equity lens. She also serves as Chair for SANDAG’s Transportation Committee and the Air Pollution Control District, where her priorities include promoting environmental and climate justice to support communities that have been disproportionately impacted. Additionally, as Vice Chair for the Regional Task Force on the Homeless’s Continuum of Care Advisory Board of Directors, Vice Chair Vargas is working to ensure barriers are removed and the region’s unsheltered population have access to the wraparound services they need. Prior to her election to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Vice Chair Vargas served as member of the Southwestern College Governing Board, the only public institution of higher education in San Diego’s South County. She served on the Board of Southwestern since her appointment in 2013 and was elected twice to the position. Vice Chair Vargas also served as the first Latina Executive for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.