National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 20 Years of Latina Leadership Search
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NHLI Latina Empowerment Conferences

State Farm Insurance Companies

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Thanks to the
Latina Empowerment Conference's Sponsors

Charlottte, North Carolina

Click here to download a pdf with all the Charlotte LEC information.


8:00 am Registration & Networking Breakfast
9:00 Welcome Remarks from Sponsors
9:20 Overview of Latinas in the US and NHLI
9:50 Seven Demands of Leadership (Gallup Org.)
11:15 Break
11:30 Unleashing Your Genius
12:45 pm Lunch & Panel –
Latinas Sharing their Secrets of Success

Concurrent Workshops –

Managing Your Money and Building Wealth

Where do I go from here? Changing Careers and Maximizing our Life Experiences

3:45 Closing Remarks
4:00 Event Ends

Thanks to Media Partners:

La Noticia, Norsan Multimedia and Colibrí Productions, and

Community Partners:

Emerging Latina Leadership Advocates (ELLA), Latin American Chamber of Commerce, Latin American Women’s Coalition & Mental Health Association and the Latina American Coalition.

Panelists (click on name to view bio)

Andrea Bazan, President, Triangle Community Foundation
Deborah Aguiar-Velez, Principal, Sistemas Corporation
Astrid Chirinos, Principal, Calor Energy
Irma G. Santana, Bi-lingual Resource Mother, Palmetto Healthy Start
Marisol Johnson, Agent, State Farm Insurance Companies
Cristina López, President, National Hispana Leadership Institute


Zulma X. Barrios, Senior Advisor, Gallup University
Mary Beth Ballantine, State Farm Insurance Companies
Janet Childrey, former Charlotte City Council Candidate
Gina Rudan, President, Genuine Insights

Deborah Aguiar-Vélez

Deborah Aguiar-Vélez is the founder, president and owner of Sistemas Corporation.  An accomplished engineer and businesswoman, she is nationally recognized for innovative leadership in the areas of entrepreneurship, technical development and public service.

Deborah founded Sistemas Corporation in 1983. The company provides customized software and training for engineers, scientists and technical personnel.  Her clients include Fortune 500 Corporations and among them ExxonMobil.

In 2009, she started Escúchame, Inc. ( an international virtual community of Latina experts.  The purpose of this community is to “break stereotypes a word at a time”. This community features a Latina Speaker’s Bureau, a Writer’s Guild and a Discussion Forum.   

In addition to her non-profit work at Escúchame, Deborah has served on the boards of The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, and CoreStates New Jersey National Bank.  She is listed in Who’s Who Among Hispanic Americans, and Who’s Who of American Women.  She has been the recipient of numerous honors, among them IBM’s Hispanic Magazine’s Latina Excellence Award for Science and Technology.  She also serves in the Board of Directors of SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Company, a 70 year old $1.4 Billion organization.

Deborah earned her Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with honors from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and has attended executive education programs at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire and the Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Gina Amaro Rudan

Gina Amaro Rudan is a high-impact speaker, trainer and strategist with a passion to inspire genius. Gina recently left her corporate cocoon to blossom as an entrepreneur and as a result of moving from vision to venture was recently awarded the 2009 March of Dimes Woman Living to the Fullest Award.

Gina has held executive positions at Fortune 500 companies including Avon Products and PR Newswire, where she responsible for spearheading multicultural and international marketing efforts. A native New Yorker, Gina graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from Binghamton University and is a National Urban Fellow holding a Master's degree in Public Administration from Baruch College in New York City.

She has been a guest lecturer and keynote a speaker for numerous organizations including: Booz Allen Hamilton, BET, Fannie Mae, InterPublic Group, Merck, The Stern School of Business at New York University, and for the Endeavor Organization.  Gina is a founding board member of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, a women's leadership academy in New York. 

Mary Ballentine

Mary Beth Ballantine, ChFC, owns and operates a growing State Farm Insurance agency servicing the Greater Charlotte Metro Area.  She began her professional career as a Marriage and Family Counselor in rural Ohio.

During Graduate school she began working in insurance on a part-time basis to earn additional income and soon realized a strong connection with this alternative “helping” profession.  Mary Beth decided to change careers and undertook an entry level position with State Farm Insurance Companies as a corporate trainer.  Her background in counseling served her well as a trainer as she helped other agents better know and serve their customers. She continued to serve State Farm in varying capacities on the operations side of the insurance business in training, marketing, and compliance. 

Mary Beth is now in her 10th year with State Farm and her 4th year as a North Carolina State Farm Agent.  She has a team of 6 Professional Risk Managers that assist with insurance and financial needs.  Outside of her life as an insurance guru, she is married to a native Charlottian and also the mother of a 2 year old little boy and a 4 your old little girl.  For her outstanding efforts as an entrepreneur, Mary Beth as recently nominated as the Rising Star business owner by the Charlotte chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She has written about her business in the upcoming book “50 Marketing Secrets of High Growth Companies in Down Economic Times”

Zulma Barrios

Zulma X. Barrios is a native of El Salvador. She is the Senior Advisor for Gallup University whose efforts are dedicated towards a better understanding of Multiculturalism as it relates to Insurance Companies and community-based non-profit organizations. Zulma worked in the International insurance arena for 27 years, earning many awards of excellence. Sheholds the distinction of being the first woman General Manager for the Mutual of Omaha Companies. She is a certified Registered Health Underwriter. In January 1994, Zulma was recruited by the Gallup Organization. As Vice President of Women and Diversity Leadership for Gallup University, she helped individuals develop their leadership talents for the benefit of their companies, organizations, and communities. In 2005, her role with the Office of the Governor of the State of Nebraska was to assist in the development of Latino leadership. She sits on several national boards, and was instrumental in the creation of the National African-American Women’s Leadership Institute and the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute.

Andrea Bazan

Andrea Bazán is President of Triangle Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization with assets of over $130 million. She has had a career in state government, academia and the nonprofit sector. She was Executive Director of El Pueblo, a Latino advocacy and public policy organization, and a lobbyist at the NC General Assembly for several years. She also held positions at the UNC School of Public Health and the North Carolina Dept of Health and Human Services.

Andrea serves as a mentor to many young students and is a frequent speaker at local and national events. She serves on the board of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization, including a term as chair.  She sits on the Leadership Council of Hispanics in Philanthropy and on the boards of BlueCross BlueShield, the UNC School of Public Health Foundation, American Jewish Committee Latino Jewish Working Group, Women’s Forum of North Carolina, Friends of the Nasher Museum, and Wachovia Bank /Wells Fargo in Raleigh. She serves on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Southwest Border Taskforce under Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Andrea has received a number of awards and recognitions. In 2008, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine and Latino Leaders magazine included her in its list of 101 Top Latino Leaders in the United States.  She received the 2007 Woman of Achievement award by the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the 2005 Sidney Chipman Award by the UNC School of Public Health and the 2006 Alumna of the Year Award by the UNC School of Social Work. She also has a scholarship named in her honor that supports Latino students established by El Pueblo. She is the proud mother of three daughters.

Janet Childrey Jane Bott Childrey is the owner of a real estate brokerage business specializing in buyer agency and residential investment property. Jane utilized her real estate expertise and her husband’s architectural capabilities to purchase and renovate run down duplexes and rent them out when she left the staffing industry to have children. She is a mother of four, stepdaughter Kate (21), Lillian (9), Alexandra (6) and Ian (4). Jane is the daughter of an American father and Ecuadorian mother. Jane’s past experiences include running for Charlotte City Council, managing a full service staffing company, and property management. She is a graduate of Queens University of Charlotte with a BA in Business Administration. Jane has traveled the world and lived for five years in Saudi Arabia as a teenager. Jane has made Charlotte, NC her home for the last 22 years where she met her husband Wyc, a local architect.
Astrid Chirinos

Astrid Chirinos, Founder and Principal of Diverso Global Strategies (DGS) has been providing Multicultural Marketing and Multicultural Workforce Development Strategy to Fortune 500 companies and other large organizations in the Charlotte Region through an integrated approach that includes the Cross-Cultural Competency, the Organizational Readiness and the effective Community Outreach and Action Plans required to retain and increase our fast growing multicultural markets. DGS has provided In-Culture, In-Language Strategy, Event Planning, Public Relations and Community Relations, Current Reality Assessments, Leadership, Skills Training and Development, as well as, Bilingual Support to organizations such as Goodrich, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Compass Group NAD, Time Warner Cable, Wachovia Bank, The Diversity Council of the Carolinas, The United Way, The Urban League of the Central Carolinas, The US Department of Labor and Johnson C Smith University, La Noticia Spanish Language Newspaper, AT&T, The Charlotte Sports Hall of Fame, Compare Foods Supermarkets, Food Lion, Calle Cinco Festival and the Hornets Nest Girl Scouts among others. She is also a partner at Afina Solutions, a Multicultural Corporate Talent Development and Realignment consulting company and at Calor Energy, LLC facilitating the green culture-shift for an organization through sustainable business practices and renewable energy

Astrid is past chair of the Charlotte Mayor’s International Cabinet, The Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACC), the Latino Pathways Partnership, and past Vice-Chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Workforce Development Board. She is currently a board member of other organizations committed to improving the Charlotte’s region and the state such as the Centralina Economic Development Commission eleven County Region, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Workforce Development Board, the Women’s Intercultural Exchange (WIE), The Knight Foundation, The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research ,and the McColl Center for Visual Arts. Astrid has also served on the boards of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce The Levine Museum of the New South, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and WFAE 90.7 NPR. She served on the United Way Community Investment Council and as one of the 16 members of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools System CMS Task Force in 2006.

She was the recipient of the 2009 Practitioner of the Year from the National Employment Counseling Association, the 2008 Social Capital and Community Building Woman of Distinction Award from the Hornests’ Nest Girls Scouts. 2006 North Carolina Businesswoman Diamante Award and the YMCA Spirit of Charlotte Award, the 2004 Charlotte Business Journal Catalyst of Diversity and the La Noticia’s 2003Execelente Business Woman of the Year.. Astrid’s country of origin is Venezuela and is an Honors graduate of St Mary’s College and NC State University in Raleigh, NC with a degree in Environmental Visual Design. Prior to starting her own company in 2001, she worked in the Design, Marketing, Corporate Communications and Public Relations fields in Raleigh and Charlotte and was a Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch. She is a 2006 graduate of the Leadership Development Institute from the Community Building Initiatives at the Foundation for the Carolinas, a 2006 graduate from the Innovation Institute of the McColl Center for Visual Arts in Charlotte and has been a guest speaker in many panels, radio and TV programs on the topics of multiculturalism and in-culture and in-language strategy.

Marison Johnson

Marisol Johnson was born in El Salvador, adopted and brought to the United States when she was about 10 months old. Marisol grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and is the daughter of two school principals. She and her brother were taught a little about their culture, but it wasn't until she became an adult that she embraced herself and her heritage.

After graduating from Towson University with a bachelor's in Mass Communications and a Minor in Spanish, Marisol was approached by a friend who was working for a brand new State Farm Agent, in Baltimore City. She said, that this was a very good opportunity for a recent graduate, and that there was a ton of room for advancement.

Marisol was extremely hesitant, because she knew absolutely nothing about insurance, and honestly couldn’t see herself as an “Insurance Person”. But after 4 years as a team member for that new agent and with many sales and leadership accomplishments, she decided to take the leap of faith and to pursue the opportunity to open her very own State Farm Agency.

She opened her doors to her business at the age of 28 in January 2008. Life is challenging with having 3 little girls, but she loves her life as a business owner. "It is setting me and my family up for success and financial freedom!! I wouldn’t change all of the hard work, long hours and emotional stress for anything!" she exclaimed.

Irma Santana

Irma G. Santana was born and raised in El Salvador, Central America, where she began her work as an activist the age of 14. Irma emigrated to the United States in 1967 and lived in Philadelphia, where she got married. She has two sons, José and Edgar, and two grand-children. Irma has traveled throughout the United States and lived 10 years in Puerto Rico. While in Puerto Rico, she became an American citizen. Irma moved to South Carolina in 1983, and in 1995 led a group of individuals dedicated to the well-being of the community and founded Acercamiento Hispano de Carolina del Sur, Inc., also known as Hispanic Outreach, Inc. She is the co-founder of Hispanic Leadership Council and the Coalition for New South Carolinians. Irma has been working for Palmetto Healthy Start for the past three years as a Resource Mother. In this capacity she helps pregnant women to find resources in the community and ensures that they get early prenatal care and teaching them healthy habits to have healthy babies.

Irma has been recognized both locally and nationally for her work with the Hispanic community. She is in a unique position to help provide timely and culturally competent services to the growing Hispanic community in South Carolina.

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