Ray Nuñez

The latino policy institute

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Partner, Community Director at the Nuñez Co.

Growing up as a Mexican and undocumented immigrant, in predominately white town lead ray to learn how to navigate the importance of his identity.

Combining his artistic abilities of drawing, writing and design with his deep seeded roots in his heritage, He pursued an education and a career in design and communication, Starting out in a print shop helping neighbors in small businesses create their brands. 

In 2020, Ray & his wife Tarynn launched The Nuñez Co., combining their passion for design and communications to use creative ways to kickstart, scale & celebrate small businesses. 

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Adriana Dawson

The latino policy institute

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Community Engagement Director at Verizon

While born and raised in Rhode Island, Adriana’s roots connect to the first Colombians to arrive in Rhode Island. Settling in Central Falls, her family assisted new arrivals with housing, employment and other new world needs. As a young child she also played a role in this work as an interpreter and navigator. While she was deeply immersed in her growing and thriving Latino community, while at school she experienced the complete. As one of only three Latinos in her Catholic school she felt like a cultural double agent straddling two very different worlds.

Adriana is also a first generation professional. She came from hard working factory workers who worked long days; Family dinner conversations never consisted of stories of the office or their industry. Her lived experiences launched her career and have continued to guide her professionally these past 25+ years. She has been in six different industries and in each one she has led, guided and informed employers on how to authentically launch and engage in new flavorful markets. Adriana has braided her cultural fluency and business acumen to amplify the power of community.

As a Latina, Adriana expresses how much Latinos have influenced and impacted every facet of the American experience from the economy, to our media, to food and music. Especially with the explosive growth and evolution of the amazing contributions Latinos have made in each and every sector of Rhode Island.

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Marinel Russo

The latino policy institute

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Manager of Early Childhood  Initiatives

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Marinel grew up around family, immersed in her culture. Although all of that changed at the ripe age of 16 when her mom, siblings and herself immigrated to the United States to reunite with her father. This was a huge uproot for a teenager, new country, new language and new surroundings. Her parents were determined to overcome those difficult moments to create a beautiful new life filled with opportunities for their family.

 

After graduating high school, Marinel graduated from Baruch College in New York. It was also there that she met her husband and they returned to Rhode Island where he had grown up to begin a family. After having her two oldest daughters, Marinel felt she wanted to do more professionally than her marketing analyst position. For her, teaching young English learners was a full circle passion for her as she understood the challenges they faced and their struggles. It was during her student teaching that she was introduced to an opportunity at the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children working to assess the quality of childcare programs in Rhode Island. In her current role as Manager of Early Childhood Initiatives, she oversees initiatives such as T.E.A.C.H Early Childhood RI, a scholarship and workforce development program that provides financial opportunities and counseling support to the early childhood workforce.

 

As a Latina woman, Marinel points to her heritage as an influence for the way she approaches her work with the same conviction and passion as the food she feeds her family. She wants her daughters to grow up feeling just as proud. Latinos enrich our world from their emphasis on family, culture and history. To her, they are Americans who also don’t forget where they come from.

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Elliot Rivera

The latino policy institute

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Executive Director of Youth in Action

Growing up in Worcester, MA as a first generation Salvadoran, Elliot Rivera did not have the access to most resources. What he did have were two dedicated parents working countless hours in manufacturing and janitorial services to get by. Never really thinking he would end up working with people, opportunities to support his communities from fighting within a union for undocumented worker rights to supporting youth in multiple settings came naturally to Elliot. 

As a person of Latine heritage, Elliot’s connection to his work and the journey of it is rooted in his deep core connection to all aspects of his culture. Now proudly calling Providence RI home, in his current role as the Executive Director of Youth in Action he is not only to amplify the stories and journeys of the next generation but also support them in their own journeys by opening doors to experiences and opportunities he was never afforded. 

For Elliot, the Latinx experience is a story of strife, persistence and love with an eye for community. Across all aspects of music, food and storytelling, He finds connections to his people through stories of his predecessors and their journeys and uses them to continue that legacy today and forward.  Celebrating each individual wholey– con mucho ritmo!

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Victor Regino

The latino policy institute

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Deputy Director of City Services for the City of Providence

Born and raised in Rhode Island as a first generation Puerto Rican and Dominican, Victor noticed at an early age the difference of growing up as an immigrant in a Spanish speaking household. At a young age, he was expected to help his mother navigate their new life in the United States by helping to interpret words, conversations and even legal documents; much of which was beyond his comprehension. His experiences while growing up helped create and shape his passion to serve and elevate the voice of the Latino community 

Today, Victor serves as the Deputy Director of City Services for the City of Providence. Working in the city with the highest population of Latino constituents, he is able to assist those in his community by directly communicating in their native language, assisting them with access to resources and city services that historically heavily impact their livelihoods as well as being able to voice their concerns. 

Aside from his professional capacities, Victor is also the proud Co-Founder of a liquor brand company called Papi’s Coquito, where he hopes to bring the traditional Puerto Rican beverage to liquor store shelves for all to enjoy. When he is not working, you can often find him offering business advice to help others achieve their career objectives and spending precious time with his fiancé Michaela and his beautiful daughter Aliani.

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Dr. Eugenio Fernandez Jr

The latino policy institute

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Founder of Asthenis Pharmacy

Growing up in the West End of Providence, Engenio Fernandez Jr. witnessed the effects of inaccessibility to reliable health information outside of a doctor’s office. After completing his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island with quadruple degrees in Biology, Psychology, Pharmacy and Business, he went on to complete a Masters degree from Harvard University in Public Health. 

With all his knowledge and experiences within his community, he wanted to focus not so much on the heavily diverged clinician portion of health, but focus on the actual needs from the community. From this, he founded Asthenis because he saw and heard the needs for access to reliable health information outside of a doctor’s appointment. 

Asthenis not only powers as a traditional pharmacy but also serves as a community resource for reliable health education. Engenio’s mission for Asthenis is to build a health-conscious community by promoting public health guidance and health education. Located in Wiggin Village right across from the low-income neighborhood he grew up in, he identified the intersectionality of where people live and their ability to access reliable health education. 

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Gloria Greenfield

The latino policy institute

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Senior Director of Community Programs

In 2001, amidst the political turmoil after 9/11 Gloria Greenfield left her home country of Venezuela at 25 and came to the US with nothing but two suitcases and her child. She worked many dead end jobs to survive and learn English. 

Four years later Gloria got a job at an immigration law office and found it to be an opportunity to learn everything there was about immigration law. She devoted her time there studying every piece of the process which began her path as a legal advocate. Although it wasn’t until she became a part-time court advocate at  Sojourner House that she found the mission of the organization aligned with her passions and values and her true career began.

As the Senior Director of Community Programs, Gloria has been able to advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in their immigration cases including deportation regardless of ability to pay. As an immigrant herself, she saw first hand the lack of legal services available for undocumented victims of domestic violence which created an immense barrier to leave abuse and seek shelter. It was because of this she established the first and only Advocacy Program housed in a state domestic violence agency. 

Her family, friends, and clients who are also Latino or immigrants have shown Gloria time and time again that our dreams are the essence of our core. “So many of them are business owners, leaders, and outstanding citizens of our community. We, immigrants, appreciate all the opportunities we receive and we know it’s our duty to give back to this incredible nation.”

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Steffy Molina

The latino policy institute

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Bilingual Family Engagement Director

Born in Providence, RI, Steffy was born to a Bolivian mother and a Guatemalan father. At 6 months old, her mother brought her to live in Bolivia with her where she spent her childhood until the age of nine when they moved to Granollers-Barecelona Spain in search of a better life. After living in Spain for five years Steffy and her mother had to have the difficult conversation about her future as they were undocumented with an unstable finiancial situation so they decided it would be best to finish out her education in Bolivia. After graduating from high school in 2011 Steffy moved to the United States to pursue a career. 

Coming from a non-English speaking family, she was the interpreter growing up, experiencing first hand the many inequalities and discrimination of Non-English speaking families especially in education. It is from her experiences that she found her passion to provide affordable and accessible education for all. As the Bilingual Family Engagement Director at Providence Promise, she gets to bring her passion to work to bridge the gap between community and families and their engagement with their children’s education and success. 

She believes that although not every Latino experience is the same, the Latino community is extremely diverse and is always looking for ways to succeed and achieve the next opportunity to move forward. She points to the enrichment of the economy especially in the food industry by the Latino culture and cuisine.

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Roberto Gonzalez

The latino policy institute

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Founder of Steam Box

Growing up, Roberto Gonzalez had to learn to channel his inner Peter Parker to understand the meaning of “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.” While attending a predominantly white school, he struggled being the only Puerto Rican student. He endured discrimnation from staff and classmates, which prompted him to move to Classical High School. Once he made that move, he felt that he was able to be exposed to more diverse opportunities and benefits for success while still facing barriers due to class and race. 

Roberto took those experiences and feelings and turned them into motivation. He decided he wanted to create solutions to the problems he faced and that also plagued the youth in his community daily. After graduating as a sound engineer, he stayed connected to his inner Peter Parker. Having grown up in Washington park, he founded STEAM Box to mentor youth in his community and to be the support in their lives that he didn’t have. STEAM Box creates STEAM programs based entirely on the youths interest such as outer space, self-made hover-boards, apps, artificial language and virtual reality. They even tell their stories through podcasts episodes and they’ve traveled to Japan twice. 

Roberto’s experiences motivated him to create a space he wished he had as a youngster to create, develop and experiment his interests to then model a path to a career. He believes in making the youth their own bosses, taking charge of their own futures. His favorite part about his work is that just as much as fun it is, there is so much learning through it all. 

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Yaniza Gallant

The latino policy institute

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Multilingual Director for East Providence Schools

Yaniza Gallant’s story begins as a refugee born in Havana, Cuba to parents who immigrated to the United States when she was only five years old. Despite language barriers, her dad worked multiple jobs to provide for their family as they began their new life in Passaic, New Jersey until they moved to Providence, Rhode Island when Yaniza was 11 years old. 

Throughout her public school education, she saw education as an equalizer for her that changed the trajectory of her life. Due to barriers such as language and lack of resources, there was little interaction between her home life and her school life. Even with extremely supportive parents, Yaniza was told that college was out of her reach. It was because of her teacher, Mr. Roberts who became her first adult advocate that her dreams of being the first in her family to go to college was achieved and she attended Rhode Island College.

Beginning as a bilingual teacher in the Providence School Department and later becoming a Principal at Orlo Elementary in East Providence, Yaniza became what she always wanted to see during her education for her students. She uses her personal story to show students and families what is possible. Her career has come full circle, in the last two years Yaniza has been the Multilingual Learner Director for the East Providence School Districts. As Director, she oversees all students and staff of second language learners. 

As a first generation Cuban American, Yaniza experienced first hand the struggle of a refugee from a young age. It is the drive to succeed and achieve that she holds center to her identity. She believes Latinos are rich in that drive and passion in the pursuit of a better tomorrow for generations to come and honoring the core values and beliefs our nation was built on. 

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