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7th Annual National LATINA Symposium, 2010

In its seventh consecutive year, the National LATINA Symposium gathered talented and successful Latinas from across the nation on September 9th at the Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. A celebration of Latina empowerment, the event addressed the concerns of the Latino community in one forum. In addition to recognizing key Latina leaders for their leadership, accomplishments, and commitment in building a strong community, Latinas shared their stories of success throughout the different workshops of the day.

“We must recognize that we live in tense times, and we have and are rising to the challenge,” said Robert Bard, president and CEO of LATINA Style in his opening remarks. “We are making a difference, and everyone is here for a reason.” Afterwards, attendees welcomed the Honorable Juan M. Garcia, III, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Navy, to the ceremonial leadership breakfast. He emphasized the need of the Latina working force in every field during this recovery period and the importance of earning a place at the American table. “America cannot afford to overlook any talent, and we are not,” he said.

Featured speaker Brigadier General Linda Urrutia-Varhall, U.S. Air Force, underlined the importance of mentorship and various opportunities as key points to a Latinas’ development in her career. “You can be anything you want with encouragement, education, and a little attitude,” she stated. Her message was one of inspiration for anyone willing to grow. In addition, her message demanded the action of the Latina community. “You belong, do not think any differently every time you walk into a room,” she asserted. “Always seize the opportunity.”

The first panel entitled Workforce Opportunities...Jobs in Today’s Economy aimed to open the panorama for Latinas in the Federal workforce. Moderated by Dr. Patricia T. Taylor, Chief, Intelligence Community EEO & Diversity, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), panelists included remarkable professional Latinas currently employed in diverse government agencies such as Pearl Esquibel, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Ilsa Ferro, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); Sara Manzano-Díaz, U.S. Department of Labor (DoL); Kathryn Medina, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Clara Villarreal Varner, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“Hispanics are the most fast growing group in the U.S., this is 5 percent more than the overall population groups growing rate, but the least representative in the work force,” said Dr. Taylor during her opening statement addressing how valuable it is to have these types of forums for Latinas. For that reason, the panelists were eager to show that the opportunities are available for Latinas to look, prepare, and apply for. And even though there is no master plan to get to the top, there are shareable truths. “There is no silver bullet that makes anyone successful,” said Ferro. “So I became very competitive. I tried to be the very best at any task. There is always some level of risk, but I could not live with myself knowing there was more to be done.”

Panelists also spoke about self-confidence, networking, work/life balance, and emphasized that young Latinas should be exposed to possibilities. Panelists also mentioned the challenges they’ve faced in their lives. Nevertheless, Manzano-Díaz, originally born in Puerto Rico, recommended above all “to dream big” as the first step towards professional realization.

2010 Military Awardees (L-R) Michael Alicia, U.S. Army; Samuel Perez, U.S. Army, Civilian; LCDR Nieva M. S. Brock, U.S. Navy; Glenda Leon, U.S. Navy, Civilian; MSgt Kim A. Lannon, U.S. Marine Corps; MSgt. Sandra M. Nunes, U.S. Air Force; SFC Lana Luciano National Guard Bureau; LT. Erica Kelly, U.S. Coast Guard; Lonnie Suazo, U.S. Coast Guard; Maritza Guevara, Defense Logistics Agency.
Rear Admiral Edward H. Deets, III, Commander, Naval Network Warfare Command, U.S. Navy.
“Workforce Opportunities...Jobs in Today’s Economy” panel. (L-R) Dr. Patricia Taylor, ODNI; Pearl Esquibel, FBI; Ilsa Ferro, DIA; Sara Manzano-Diaz, USDA; Kathryn Medina (OPM); Clara Villarreal Varner, CIA.
Hon. Juan Garcia, III, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), U.S. Navy.
Brigadier Gen. Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, senior executive advisor to the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. Air Force.
(L-R) Pat Martinez, president & CEO of the National Hispanic Corporate Council (NHCC); Yvonne Garcia, vice chair, Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA); Cristina Lopez, president, National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI); Nina Vaca-Humrichouse, chair, USHCC and Jeanette Hernandez-Prenger, vice chair, USHCC.
Clara Villarreal Varner, senior technical intelligence officer, CIA.
Capt. Raquel Cruz Bono, Medical Corps; U.S. Navy.

Nurturing Latina Success…The Status of the LATINA Professional was the second panel of the day in which high ranking women from the top Hispanic agencies participated. Nina Vaca, newly appointed chair of the Unites States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), served as moderator. The four invited speakers were Jeanette Hernandez-Prenger, (USHCC); Yvonne Garcia, Women of ALPFA (WOA); Cristina Lopez, National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI), and Pat Martinez, National Hispanic Corporate Council (NHCC). They represent the level of entrepreneurship and success that the Latina community is seeking. They spoke about emerging technology trends in business, wealth creation and financial security, among other subjects.

Moving forward, a third workshop entitled Diversity Leaders in the Military–Men as Agents of Change, gathered honorable Military men in a session where they dealt with diversity issues, professional development, Latina’s capabilities to succeed, and opportunities for Latinas and Latinos in the Military. During the session, panelists focused on ways to work to ensure that diversity in the service is met. The panel was moderated by Captain Raquel Cruz Bono, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy. Panelists included: Rear Admiral Edward H. Deets III, U.S. Navy; Brigadier General Andre H. Sayles, Ph.D, U.S. Army (Ret.); Brigadier General Vincent R. Stewart, U.S. Marine Corps; Mr. Daniel R. Sitterly, director, Force Development, deputy chief of staff for Manpower & Personnel, U.S. Air Force, and Mr. Curtis B. Odom, director of Personnel Management, U.S. Coast Guard.

(L-R) MSG Michael Alicea, U.S. Army; Major Gen. Angela Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; Andre H. Sayles, U.S. Army, (Retired), and Clarence A. Johnson, Principal Director, Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, Department of Defense (DoD).
(L-R) Major Gen. Angela Salinas; LCDR Nieva M. S. Brock, U.S. Navy; Rear Admiral Nanette M. “Nan” DeRenzi, Judge Advocate General Corps., Navy Legal Service Command and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.
(L-R) Major Gen. Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; SFC Lana Luciano, U.S. National Guard Bureau; Army Maj. Gen. Randy E. Manner; and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.
(L-R) Major Gen. Angela Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; Mr. Samuel Perez, U.S. Army; Andre H. Sayles, U.S. Army, (Retired), and Clarence A. Johnson, Department of Defense.
(L-R) Mr. Brian McKeon, U.S. Navy; Major Gen. Angela Salinas; Glenda Leon, U.S. Navy; Rear Admiral Nanette M. “Nan” DeRenzi, Judge Advocate General Corps., Navy Legal Service Command and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.
(L-R) Major Gen. Angela Salinas; LT. Erica Kelly, U. S. Coast Guard; Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, Director of Reserve and Leadership, U.S. Coast Guard, and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.
(L-R) Major Gen. Angela Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; MSgt Kim A. Lannon, U.S. Marine Corps; Colonel Otto Rutt, Branch Head, EO/Diversity Management Branch, Manpower & Reserve Affairs; and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.
(L-R) Major Gen. Angela Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; MSgt Sandra M. Nunes, U.S. Air Force; Mr. Gary A. O’Connell, chief scientist, National Air and Space Intelligence (NASIC), U.S. Air Force; and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.

“Diversity is an enabler,” stated Rear Admiral Deets. In order to grasp the scope of the issue, Brigadier General Sayles pointed out that there are two forms of color-blind; “In one you pretend everyone is the same, but those are just words,” he stated. “In the second one, you become so adapted to different people that you make the change automatically.”

Phrases such as: “The key to success is to work your passion” by Maria Rita Jaramillo, senior liaison at National Education Association, or “Take a risk and know where you come from” by Marie Quintana from PepsiCo, were heard during the last panel Strategies for Success moderated by Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, executive vice president of Multi-Cultural Strategy and Public Engagement at AARP. Marie Therese Dominguez, vice president, Government Relations and Public Policy, (USPS) was the third panelist advising future women leaders the importance of education. “Develop arguments, build a case, articulate yourself, are all things you learn in school,” she stated. “Education was everything to me.”

“When you get to a certain level, it is male dominated and it can be intimidating,” stated Marie Quintana, vice president, Multicultural Sales Development at PepsiCo, when asked about the challenges in her path. “You need to understand your strengths, be comfortable with yourself, sell yourself and don’t be afraid of it. Get out of your comfort zone…I know that when I am not in my comfort zone, I am in the right place.”

The common factor among all the speakers was ‘Opportunity’. Opportunities that exist, that are sizeable, and that Latinas need to engage in are healthy risks. Just as the Honorable Juan M. Garcia III indicated, “Opportunity exists for all of us; it is a matter of grabbing hold of them.” This message came across through all the panels to inspire and hopefully drive the future actions of the audience. After recognizing Latinas for their achievements, the event was followed by the memorable Distinguished Military Service Awards Luncheon, which highlighted the contribution of Latinas in the military service.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX).
(L-R) Major Gen. Angela Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; Lonnie Suazo, U. S. Coast Guard; Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, Director of Reserve and Leadership, U.S. Coast Guard, and Mr. Clarence A. Johnson, DoD.
Rear Admiral Robert Bianchi, U.S. Navy.
Major Gen. Angela Salinas, U.S. Marine Corps; CDR Mary-Angela S. Katson; U.S. Navy; and Lieutenant Jessica Davila, U.S. Coast Guard.
(L-R) Marie Therese Dominguez; vice president of Public Relations and Public Policy, (USPS); Rita Jaramillo, Senior Liaison, Community Outreach, National Education Association (NEA), and Marie Quintana, vice president, multicultural sales development, PepsiCo, Inc., and Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, AARP.
(L-R) Brig. Gen. Andre H. Sayles, Ph. D., U.S. Army; (Ret.); Mr. Curtis Odom, U.S. Coast Guard; Rear Admiral Patrick Brady, U.S. Navy; Brig. Gen. Vincent Stewart, U.S. Marine Corps; Mr. Daniel Sitterly, U.S. Air Force; Rear Admiral Ned Deets, U.S. Navy and Capt. Raquel Cruz Bono, Medical Corps; U.S. Navy (center).

By Gloria Romano and Ivette Yañez Soria.

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