This is the first of a five-part series.
Every year since our founding in 2015, we have recognized Wisconsin’s most influential Black and Latino leaders, and we are very proud now to also begin to recognize Indigenous and Asian American leaders. These lists have become the most anticipated thing we do. Every year, I’ve intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state. I want kids here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for people of color to achieve great things here.
This week we shine a statewide spotlight on the dedicated leaders of Wisconsin’s Latino communtiies. These are richly diverse communities with roots that represent a massive geographic area. The people we highlight this week are elected leaders, business leaders and community leaders, doing difficult, important work, often in the face of discrimination and literally generations of oppression.
We are also aware that this list, like every other, is not comprehensive. There are, without a doubt, more than 46 influential Latino leaders doing good work in Wisconsin. We hope you will let us know about people in your community who we can include on future lists. For now, though, we just want to introduce you to a few of the people doing the work, often behind the scenes and without the accolades, across Wisconsin.
You might know a few of these names, but there’s a good chance that most of them will be new to you. I urge you to get to know them. Reach out to those living and working in your communities. Learn from them, network, create partnerships. And spread the word — let others in your network know that we have people of all ethnicities living and working across Wisconsin to make this state a good and prosperous place for all.
And one more note: Many of the people on this list — and on previous lists — will gather next week, October 10 and 11, at the fifth annual Wisconsin Leadership Summit. You’re welcome to come, too, to meet, network with and learn from this dynamic group!
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Patty Cisneros Prevo is Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the University of Wisconsin School of Business Undergraduate Program. She previously served as Assistant Director of Inclusion & Engagement with Wisconsin Athletics, where she assisted in the development and execution of the DEI Strategic Plan and created programs and initiatives to support a more diverse and inclusive Athletics Department. She’s also won five National Wheelchair Basketball Association Championships, and became the first female head coach of a collegiate wheelchair basketball team with the University of Illinois, winning the national championship that same year. A three-time Paralympian, she was a member of the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team for 10 years. As captain of the 2008 Paralympic team, she led Team USA to its second consecutive gold medal after winning gold in 2004. Cisneros Prevo is currently contracted with Lee & Low Books and will have her first picture book published in Spring 2023. Tenacious: Fifteen Adventures Alongside Disabled Athletes focuses on 15 disabled individuals and their major life and athletic accomplishments. And, in January 2021, Cisneros Prevo was appointed to the Congressional Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics & Paralympics.
Aisha Morales is morning and noon news anchor at WBAY, the ABC affiliate in Green Bay. Aisha moved here from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she was a weekday reporter and weekend weather forecaster/storm chaser. She was a reporter and weekend anchor here in Green Bay for about five years before getting a major promotion, stepping in as an Action 2 News This morning Anchor and Noon Anchor after legendary Anchor Kevin Rompa retired. She is also now WBAY’S first First Alert Fastcast Anchor, operating the First Alert Digital Desk where she adlibs top stories of the day, weather, traffic, all the while operating as her own sound operator and director. She received an Eric Sevareid Award of Merit for her “Learning 2 Adapt” piece speaking to kids in the community about how the 2020 pandemic was affecting them on various levels. Aisha attended Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism in 2011.
Dr. Lauren Usher is vice president in charge of gBeta, gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities and corporations. The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, conferences and fellowships. She was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Waisman Center, where she focused on the individual and contextual factors that relate to lifespan social cognition and social development of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In her dissertation at the University of Miami, Lauren examined how adolescents with and without autism formed perceptions of each other during a naturalistic social interaction, as well as how they were able to understand the perceptions that others formed of them.
Pablo DeFilippi leads membership development and engagement strategies for Inclusiv, an organization that helps low- and moderate-income people and communities achieve financial independence through credit unions. He manages Inclusiv/Network, a network of community development finance practitioners that provide valuable consulting services to CDCUs. Mr. DeFilippi has more than 20 years of experience in community finance, working with regulated financial institutions both in the domestic and international arena. Originally from Chile, DeFilippi came to the US in the early 90s and almost immediately became involved in credit unions. After working at MCU, a large credit union serving New York City employees, he joined the Lower East Side People’s FCU (LESPFCU) a credit union serving Hispanics and other underserved populations in the New York City area and acted as its CEO until early 2004. From then and until the end of 2005, Mr. DeFilippi managed the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU)‘s International Remittance Program (IRnet), a world-wide initiative to provide alternative remittance services to consumers both in the US and in recipient countries through the credit union system. DeFilippi holds a B.A. in Social Studies from Universidad de Chile, as well as a Professional Accounting Certificates from Baruch College and New York University. He has a Masters of Business Administration from Pace University, and is a graduate of CUNA’s Management School and NCUF’s Social Impact Management Institute. He is also a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) and a UK Credit Union Development Educator.
Wensy Melendez is president and CEO of Amigo Construction in Cambridge, which specializes in exterior cladding in the commercial sector. The company’s recent projects include Madison Central Library, Gorman Company’s Blue Ribbon Lofts, the Union on Lincoln student housing project in Ames, Iowa, and many others. Wensy was named to InBusiness Magazine’s 40 Under 40 class of 2022.
Marcos Vega is vice president of treasury and payment services at BMO Harris Bank, where he Provide counsel to diverse commercial banking customers regarding their cash management needs and goals. He works to fulfill the role of a trusted adviser on all things treasury, including liquidity, working capital, fraud protection, international payments, innovation in banking, and more. He started his career with internships at M&I Bank and the Milwaukee Bucks while a student at Marquette University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2006. He volunteers as a money coach for the teen financial literacy organization SecureFutures.
JoAnna Bautch is Executive Director of VIA Community Development Center, working collectively and collaboratively to create a Milwaukee with healthy and equitable neighborhoods that empower all of our people to rise and thrive together. She is a community organizer and communications professional who has spent her career working with advocacy and nonprofit organizations across Milwaukee. Growing up in Milwaukee, JoAnna attended and graduated from Milwaukee Public Schools and then received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Alverno College. As a community organizer with the Reproductive Justice Collective, JoAnna advocated for and supported women of color to be their own advocates and to act upon the knowledge that they are the leading experts on their own lived experiences. JoAnna continued her community centered work at the United Community Center (UCC), where she led communications efforts focused on uplifting the education, economic development, and health of our south side neighbors. JoAnna is committed to structural change in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. She has worked on historic political campaigns electing the first Latina/Latinx woman to the Wisconsin State Legislature and the first Latina/Latinx woman and openly-LGBTQ person elected to Milwaukee’s Common Council. JoAnna also serves on the board of All in Wisconsin, an organization working to build a narrative that centers our communities to win racial justice and the freedom to thrive for all in Wisconsin, and True Skool Inc., an arts-focused nonprofit collaborative dedicated to empowering youth and families.
Anique Ruiz is WiscAMP STEM-Inspire Program Manager at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). The STEM-Inspire program provides mentoring, peer support and research opportunities for underrepresented minority STEM majors, funded by the National Science Foundation LSAMP grant, with support from the American Family Dream Fund. She also served UWM as Program Assistant in the Office of Equity & Diversity Services and co-chair of the 2013 & 2014 Milwaukee Partners in Giving Campaigns. Moreover, Anique is the immediate past Chair of the Multicultural Network and Governance/Nominating Committee Chair of the African Diaspora Council (formerly the African-American Faculty & Staff Council) at UWM. In addition to her role at UWM, Anique is the Founder of The Journey For Women, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Milwaukee. Its vision is to empower women in need with resources and strategies to address their spiritual, physical, mental and emotional needs. Anique is an experienced attorney in both civil and criminal litigation. As a litigation attorney with Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, LLP, Anique represented Fortune 500 clients, including Wal-Mart, Rockwell Automation, JPMorgan Chase, AT&T, The Hershey Company and Texas Roadhouse. She also represented clients under the Student Practice Rule at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office-Milwaukee Trial Division. Anique also gained experience as a summer associate at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. in Milwaukee.
Dr. Adriana McCleer is Community Partnerships Supervisor for the Appleton Public Library, one of only two percent of the library and information sciences profession that’s Latino. She earned a PhD in information sciences from UW-Milwaukee in 2019 with a case study on the dismantling of Tucson, Arizona’s Mexican American Studies program.
Part Two coming tomorrow!