The Latino Professionals Association (LPA) held its fifth annual “Brindis Del Exito” on Saturday night at the Madison Club.
“When LPA was imagined in 2014 we never knew what it would become, but we wanted many to be a part of this growth and longevity,” Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County CEO Sandy Morales said.
Morales served as the master of ceremonies for the evening. LPA members, business partners, and community members joined one another in celebration of all the achievements of Latino professionals and community leaders. The event honored more than 40 members of the Latino Professionals Association and acknowledged the work of Latinos throughout Wisconsin.
Local public figures such as Madison Alder Shiva Bidar, Fitchburg Alder Julia Arata Fratta, Rep. Melissa Sargent, Fitchburg Common Council Candidate Joe Maldonado, Madison Alder Christian A. Albouras, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes participated in the night’s festivities. “I wanted you all to know the value of LPA and who belongs to LPA,” Morales said.
Born out of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County, LPA began hosting events, conferences and facilitating programs to create professional development opportunities for members in the autumn of 2013. Morales spoke about co-founding the organization alongside other influential leaders from the community before giving the floor to LPA member Silvia Gómez de Soriano who serves Madison East High School as a bilingual-bicultural resource specialist. She serves about 250 families.
“My whole purpose, my whole focus is really to make leaders out of our students because when I was young, when I was in high school, I had some amazing mentors in my life,” she said.
Gomez also thanked her mentors, some of whom were in the room. Some of her students worked as volunteers throughout the night. LPA finds many opportunities to showcase Latino leadership.
Morales served as president for two years before passing the torch to Tania Ibarra. On Saturday night, Ibarra’s successor Nicole Sandoval would say a few words before giving the floor to LPA’s newest president Valles.
“I’m ready to take this organization to the next level, there is new energy and I can feel that in this room,” LPA President Norma Gallegos Valles said.
She brings a unique perspective in addition to a background in journalism, nonprofit organization work, and community engagement. Valles can be heard on the Morning Show as Co-Host at La Movida Spanish Radio Station and found working as the Workforce Manager at Centro Hispano of Dane County.
At the event, she went over key themes and findings of an assessment LPA conducted in to paint a picture of the professional Latinx population in Dane County. In the report, more than half of the participants have bachelor’s degrees, however, only about 47 percent agree that they have sufficient support and resources to develop skills and progress in their careers.
“We have many challenges ahead of us and it’s our civic duty to do something about them for the next generation,” Valles said.