Home Wisconsin Sí Se Puede 2021: Wisconsin’s 36 Most Influential Latino Leaders, Part 1

Sí Se Puede 2021: Wisconsin’s 36 Most Influential Latino Leaders, Part 1


Since our founding in 2015, we have published lists of the most influential Black and Latino leaders in Wisconsin, and last year, we expanded that to include our Indigenous and Asian American brothers and sisters. It’s been exciting and gratifying every time, and I’m excited to bring you today our 2021 Sí Se Puede list, recognizing the most influential Latino leaders in Wisconsin. 

I have always intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity in our community. I wanted young people here in Wisconsin to see role models in people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for people of color to achieve great things here, and to highlight people of color doing great work in a variety of fields and pursuits.

It’s also important to note the diversity within our Latino community. Some of the people you’ll get to know today are new Americans, some are children or grandchildren of immigrants, and some have ancestors going back centuries within the borders of what is now the United States. The 36 people we highlight this week come from every corner of this hemisphere – North, Central and South America and bring the full breadth of those diverse cultures to enrich Wisconsin.

This list couldn’t possibly include every Latino doing good work in the community. It does, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the state or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.

It was important for us to expand the way we think about influence, and to highlight more of the people doing what it takes to improve their community. That’s one reason this list is entirely new — we considered anyone named on a previous list to be ineligible for this one, even though most of them continue to wield considerable influence.

I pray you learn something you didn’t know about some of the real leaders in communities throughout Wisconsin. It’s critical to recognize and highlight our neighbors whose stories begin elsewhere, or who trace their roots to other parts of the world. Only then will we truly appreciate the contributions we all make to the prosperity of our communities, our state and our nation.

Henry Sanders, CEO and Publisher, 365 Media

This is the first of a five-part series.

Dr. Milton Javier Bravo is vice president of Mission, Values and Inclusion at Edgewood College in Madison, a role he stepped into in September. He is a theologian who has served Catholic colleges and universities and faith-based non-profit organizations for more than a decade.  Bravo’s experience in higher education includes service in enrollment management, campus ministry, mission integration, academic advising, student life, academic research, and undergraduate instruction in Theological and Philosophical studies. Milton has also served as an advocate for underrepresented populations and is active in religious, secular, and civic organizations. He is a member of the board of directors for the Academy of Hispanic Theologians in the United States, and Hope Border Institute, in El Paso, Texas.  He is the former associate publisher at Commonweal Magazine, a lay-edited independent journal of opinion based in New York City. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Theology and Philosophy from St. Peter’s, a Catholic and Jesuit university in Jersey City, New Jersey.  He earned a MA in Theology from the Immaculate Conception Seminary of Seton Hall University and a doctoral degree from Fordham University, New York City.

Mario Garcia Sierra is the customer engagement and community development manager for Madison Gas and Electric.  A native of Guatemala, Garcia Sierra is also the board president for Centro Hispano of Dane County. Previously, Garcia Sierra was also on staff at Centro from 2008 to 2012 where he was actively involved in the organization’s mission as director of programs.


Areli Estrada is executive director of Affordable Dental Care, the Madison-based nonprofit organization that provides low-cost dental care for those who lack insurance and those in need. She previously worked as a regional director for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin for the Green Bay area and a student support coordinator at Madison College. A first-generation college graduate, she earned a bachelor’s degree in human development from UW-Green Bay and a master’s degree in community development from UW-Madison. 

Sylvia Ortiz Velez represents Milwaukee’s south side in the State Legislature, elected in November 2020. She has also served on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors since 2018. She earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and worked as a real estate broker for several years in Milwaukee before being elected to the County Board. Born and raised on the south side, she also serves on the Advisory Board of the United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS)

Martina Gollin-Graves is President and CEO of Mental Health America of Wisconsin, an affiliate of the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Alverno College in 2002, Martina began her career as a therapist, and went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from the UW-Milwaukee. 

Ignacio Enriquez is the behavioral health officer with the Appleton Police Department. He’s been a police officer in Appleton for 13 years, including stints as a school resource officer and SWAT crisis negotiator. A licensed clinical therapist with a master’s degree in social work, Ignacio accompanies other officers on calls involving people with mental health needs. Since he took on this role in 2015, the number of emergency detentions has fallen 41 percent, despite an increase in the number of welfare checks and mental health calls.

Dina Zavala is Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Affirmative Action at UW-LaCrosse. Before coming to La Crosse in 2019, she was director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Mayville State University, director of the Spanish program at Valley City State University and a teacher at both the elementary and high school levels. She received her bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages from UW River Falls, her Master of Arts in Instruction from St. Mary’s University-Minneapolis and her Ph.D. from North Dakota State University. 

Paulo Moledo is a president at Madison-based Hy Cite Enterprises, responsible for the commercial operations in South America, global IT, corporate strategy and new product development. He has 30 years of experience in a variety of roles in Brazil and the United States at companies such as Ford, AOL, Avon and Revlon.


Part 2 coming tomorrow!