National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 27 Years of Latina Leadership  

LLL Class of 2009 with NHLI President Cristina Lopez

Latinas Learning to Lead Program

Sponsored by:


The Ford Motor Company

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Graduates of the Program

Latinas Learning to Lead Class of 2009



Elaine Aguasvivas

Bronx, NY

Elaine Aguasvivas is a student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) pursuing an Economics major and double minor in Spanish. She is the former Treasurer for the HWS Latin American Organization, where she contributed on developing a series of community service activities throughout the year. After graduation Elaine hopes to utilize her Economics background among her other skills to work at an intergovernmental agency such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).   

About me: I have two siblings, my sister Aysmel and brother Carlos.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I feel privileged and can’t wait to meet the rest of the women.



Ana Barrios

Palmdale, CA


University of San Diego student and McNair Scholar, Ana Barrios, is pursuing a Sociology major and a double minor in Mathematics, Spanish languages and Literature. Ana’s interest in public policy and labor organizing have led her to create research projects and articles around social justice and human rights issues. Ana has written The Pains of Coffee: Human Rights at the Heart of Fair Trade, and Bookstore Supplier Linked to Sweatshops.    


About me: My favorite color is red, because it is the symbol of humanity.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect to be challenged and able to learn and capture it all.



Karina Castro

Los Angeles, CA

Karina is a University of San Francisco student pursuing International and Latin American studies. As a student assistant at the Center for Latino Studies in the Americas, she is responsible for educating the university campus about the Latino community. She is also actively involved as a volunteer with Amnesty International and as an ESL tutor. She’s the first in her family to attend college. Karina attributes much of her success to her mother’s support and dedication.


About me: I love to read and write.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I am looking forward to learn from other women and foster my leadership skills.



Christal Dimas

Gainesville, GA

Christal Dimas is a Biology major student at Brenau University. She currently volunteers at the Southern Regional Medical Center and is a mentor at Gainesville Middle school.  Fueled by her passion to help people, Christal hopes to obtain a Ph.D. with an emphasis on educational system reform in order to impact lives through a political career.


About me:  My favorite food has to be hands down anything Salvadoran like pupusas, beans, cream cheese and yucca frita.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect to grow tremendously!



Jessica Fernandez

Chicago, IL

Jessica Fernandez, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, holds an Associates degree from the College of Dupage.  She will transfer to Loyola University with plans to major in International studies and Spanish. Jessica aspires to build programs in her community where she volunteers and teaches ESL students with their limited proficiency skills and homework. Jessica dedicates her time to drug prevention programs like Operation Snowball; an alcohol and drug use prevention program focusing on leadership development to empower youth to lead drug-free lives. 


About me:  Two people I admire are my parents because they both are excellent role models.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect to learn from the program and the other participants.



Stephanie Gonzalez

Aloha, OR

Stephanie Gonzalez holds an Associates of Arts from Portland Community College. She will transfer to George Fox University and will major in Business Management, and Economics with a focus on Public Policy. Energized by serving an impoverished community in Oregon, she has volunteered with over twenty organizations providing homeless and low income families with resources and services towards self sufficiency. She is currently a tutor and advisor to high school students through Upward Bound in Beaverton, Oregon.


About me: I am a musician; I play the guitar, drums and sing.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I am humbled by the opportunity to go through NHLI.



Edith Gonzalez Duarte

Sparks, NV

Edith Gonzalez Duarte holds an Associates of Applied Science in Dietetics/Nutrition from Truckee Meadows Community College in Sparks, Nevada. She will transfer to the University of Nevada, Reno where she intends to major in International Affairs specializing in Diplomacy, Law and Organization. Edith’s motivation comes from her strong conviction to be a change agent through the political system.  She currently interns at Assembly Speaker’s office, Barbra Buckley, and Assembly Majority Leader, John Oceguera.  

About me: I love my culture because of the food, dance moves, music and family values.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I hope to meet successful Latinas and learn about the journey they underwent to achieve their goals.



Aurora Guzman-Luna

Las Vegas, NV

University of Nevada, Las Vegas undergraduate, Aurora Guzman-Luna, is a native of Managua, Nicaragua studying social work. Her post educational goals are to continue to volunteer in her community and to develop workshops that will inspire high school students to attain personal success and educational achievement. She currently serves as a member of the International Council at UNLV where she organizes various activities on campus to promote cultural awareness. 

About me: I like to write poetry, it allows me to express what I see/feel.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I believe it is important to share the knowledge I will receive at NHLI with my community.



Valeria Lopez Salazar

Stamford, CT

Georgetown University student and Ecuador native, Valeria Lopez Salazar, is pursuing a Government major and double minor in French and Portuguese. She utilizes her bilingual skills on campus at the Georgetown Law Center, where she volunteers to translate affidavits and serves as an interpreter between advocates, clients, and witnesses.  Valeria is passionate about social justice issues and aspires to be a change agent in her community.

About me: I love dancing salsa and anything salsa related (videos, attending events).

Her thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect to learn about myself and from other’s wisdom and experiences.



Daisy Martinez

Cornelius, OR

A student at Portland State University pursuing a Social Science and Education major, Daisy Martinez, aspires to be an educator.  She recognizes the critical role elementary school teachers play in the educational system and hopes to be an inspiring teacher and agent of change in her community. She currently volunteers at Cornelius Elementary School assisting Ms. Hall’s 1st grade class with tutoring, extracurricular activities and homework.


About me: I love my culture because of the passion that runs in our veins; we give it our all.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect to gain experience and skills necessary to serve my community. 



Liana Montecinos

Woodbridge, VA

A native of Honduras, Liana Montecinos is a Philosophy and Spanish major student at George Mason University. She aspires to be an attorney in the field of social justice and to contribute to building a world of tolerance and peace. Liana currently works with the Hispanic Against Child Abuse and Neglect organization as a Morning Star Youth Leader where she is responsible for outreach and coordinating enrichment activities for youth in the Culmore, Virginia community.


About me: My hobbies include soccer, volleyball, writing, dancing, readying and volunteering 

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect the skills that I currently have to be enhanced. 



Aida Nieto

Austin, TX

University of Texas, Austin student and Mexico native, Aida Nieto, enjoys volunteering in her community. She feels a deep obligation to improve her community and volunteers with various organizations like LULAC dedicated to promoting educational access to Latino students without legal documentation.  As a government major and immigration studies minor student, she is interested in public law and aspires to attend Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.


My favorite food: is Cajun cuisine, it is the perfect mix of spicy and seafood.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I hope to be enriched by other Latina leaders.




Jacqueline Pujol

Sterling, VA

Jacqueline Pujol is a University of Virginia student who serves as Vice President of the Cuban American Student Association (CASA). Through this affiliation, she helps educate the university’s community on Cuba’s culture and political conditions. On campus she is also active with Latino organization, La Alianza, where she is an integral part of the University’s Latino recruitment efforts. Jacqueline is an International Business and double minor in French and Spanish student.


My motivation: Is my mother, because of her strength and tenacity.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I will share the knowledge gained with others so that they can achieve success also.



Laura Pulido

Merced, CA

A student at the University of California, Davis, studying Political Science/Public Service and Education, Laura Pulido aspires to use her knowledge and voice to end social inequities. Her short term goal is to gain admission into the UC Davis law school and advocate new measures of justice for her community. She currently serves as a Senator for the university and Co-Director of the La Raza Pre-Law Association.  

About me: I am an only child.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I look forward to engaging with other civically minded Latinas.



Cristina Rayas

Centennial, CO

Cristina Rayas, a National Honors Society & Spanish Honors Society member and on the Dean’s List student at Arizona State University (ASU),  is pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Metropolitan Studies. She interns at CBS4-Denver television station and is a health & fitness reporter for She has volunteered with the Laredo Middle School in a reading and writing support class called Literacy Center.  She plans on continuing to serve her community and stress the importance of developing Latina leaders.


About me:  I love getting together with friends to watch movies and play games like Apples to Apples.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I will proactively share what I learned with my community.  



Rosalva Soto

Lewiston, ID

Rosalva Soto is a Social Work major student who is on the Dean’s List at Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC). She has volunteered with College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), YWCA, particularly with women of domestic violence and in voter registration drives.  She has also worked during school at the student residential life center, and as community organizer and community service related projects.   She is of Mexican descent and wants to give back to other Latino students by helping them acculturate to the United States.  

About me: I am the third child out of six in my family.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I would like to gain resources and learn from others.



Silvia Soto Avella

Lakeland, FL

Silvia P. Soto Avella, a Colombia native, is an International Business Management major and a French minor student at the University of South Florida.  She enjoys volunteering with Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, which is a medical facility that provides free healthcare.  She also volunteers with Community Tampa Bay a non-profit organization that promotes dialogue and respect among all cultures, religions and races through education, advocacy and conflict meditation. 


About me: I love winter because of all the traditions that renovate our love.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I can’t wait to share experiences and tools with others.



Jelissa Suarez

Greer, SC

Public Health and Latin American Studies major student at the University of South Carolina, Jelissa is currently working towards finding solutions to health related problems in her community. She is conducting a study that will construct a prenatal care service model that best fits the state of South Carolina and its undocumented population. She intends to investigate the implications that lack prenatal care of the growing population.  Jelissa is an Assistant at the Acercamiento Hispano de Carolina del Sur/SC Hispanic Outreach where she assists in grant writing, administering grants and conducting outreach for the organization’s main programs.  

About me: I enjoy traveling, playing the piano and spending time with my family.

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I look forward to practicing what I learned at work and in my community.  



Stephanie Salgado

Thornton, CO

Nursing student, Stephanie Salgado, attends Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She currently works for Growing Home, a leading social service nonprofit organization who serves homeless and displaced families. She interacts with clients, assists with casework, resource development and provides overall support.  Valuing the importance of giving back to her Latino community, she aims to become a doctor and provide the best care available to all.


About me:  I enjoy watching TV, especially novelas (soap operas)!

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I look forward to returning to my community with new found knowledge and skills.



Lucy Valenzuela

Albuquerque, NM

Lucy Valenzuela is a Spanish major and Business Management minor student at the University of New Mexico (UNM).  She is of Mexican descent and enjoys working with elementary school children.  Lucy works for the UNM Service Corps where she provides program support services for projects under the office for Community Learning and Public Service.  She recently received the AmeriCorps Educational award and plans on giving back to her community by focusing on young Latinas.  She is expected to graduate in May 2010 and plans on attending graduate school to obtain her MBA. 


About me:  I have four older sisters, who are my inspiration!

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I am proud to join 21 other Latinas who are doing amazing things in their community.  


Valerie Villarruel

Denver, CO

Valerie Villarruel is a University of Colorado, Denver student who serves as Vice President of her school’s Hispanic Scholarship Fund; a  Latino student organization which educates and supports academic achievement in its community. Valerie’s passion for education is displayed through her work at Newlon Elementary School in the bilingual education program, where she empowers students to learn English.  After competing her Spanish education major, she aspires to dedicate on issues around education and diversity.   


About me:  I enjoy my culture because of the family unity. 

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I hope to use my training to further my studies and my role in my community.  



Estefany Zendejas

Wilmington, CA

Estefany Zendejas is a Business Administration and Cinematic Arts Critical Studies major student at the University of Southern California (USC).  As the eldest in her family, she understands the value that an adult/mentor has on a child.  On Saturdays, she dedicates her time to various civic and community activities including feeding the homeless, and visiting local shelters. Estefany is currently the Director of Community Relations for the Latino Business Student Association, where she organizes and promotes community service for its members.  

About me:  I am the eldest of three younger sisters.  

Thoughts on Latinas Learning to Lead: I expect to find further inspiration and learn from every experience and encounter.