17th Annual National Latina Symposium and Virtual Awards Presentation

By Gloria Romano-Barrera

Bringing together a distinguished group of national and local leaders, partners, sponsors, and honorees virtually on September 18th, the 17th Annual National Latina Symposium provided the audience with a program full of workshops, career tips and a wellness session. Attendees were welcomed by opening remarks provided by Robert E. Bard, President & CEO, LATINA Style, Inc. In addition, title sponsor remarks were delivered by Odalys Fajardo, Walmart Inc. Co-Chair introduction and remarks were provided by Major General Angela Salinas (Ret) U.S. Marine Corps and Major General Linda Urrutia-Varhall (Ret), and U.S. Air Force; Brigadier General Irene M. Zoppi, U.S. Army Reserve.

During the first panel of the day titled Powerful “Leadership Lessons…Leading by Example,” successful Latinas in the military shared lessons learned, experiences gained throughout the years and ways to overcome challenges. Attendees also learned about how success and leadership can positively impact the community. Moderated by SMSgt Sonora L. Vasquez, U.S. Air Force, panelists included Major General Angela Salinas (Ret) U.S. Marine Corps; Major General Linda Urrutia-Varhall (Ret), U.S. Air Force; Brigadier General Irene M. Zoppi, U.S. Army Reserve.

The second panel of the day titled “Nurturing Latina Success,” focused on leadership advice and self-development. Panelists discussed the support systems that have helped them in their path to success. Moderated by Lupita Colmenero, Executive Vice President, LATINA Style, Inc., panelists included Major Kelly Ann Guerra, U.S. Army; Major Mabel B. Annunziata, U.S. Marine Corps; Master Sergeant Christian Johnson, U.S. Air Force; and Lieutenant Gabriella C. Deza, U.S. Coast Guard.­­

The last panel of the day titled “Successfully Transitioning from Active Military Service to Civilian and Corporate Careers” focused on the integration of returning military into the civilian workplace. The cultural gap that exists between ­­military and corporate entities continues to be a major challenge to veterans. Moderated by Odalys Fajardo-Guerrero, Vice President for Global Investigations, Latin America, Africa & Canada, Walmart Inc., panelists included Mike Caraballo, SVP, Project Management Manager Home Lending Product Strategy & Delivery (CCDD), Wells Fargo & Company and Alice Garcia, Business Strategy & Planning Director, USAA, speakers provided attendees more information on Veteran mentorship, sponsorships, and retention programs that are essential for corporate success. During the Distinguished Military Awards Luncheon, LATINA Style presented a recognition program honoring the accomplishments of women serving in the Armed Forces.

The Trailblazer Award was presented to Rear Admiral Yvette M. Davids, United States Navy. Keynote speaker and Presidents Award recipient was Brigadier General Aida T. Borras United States Army Reserve.BG Borras enlisted in the Army in 1985. She transitioned to the Army Reserve in the year 2000 and joined the 3431st Military Intelligence Group as a Senior Intelligence Officer providing intelligence support to information operations. She holds a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, a Masters in Education from Strayer University, and a baccalaureate degree in International Affairs from The George Washington University. Her awards include the Legion of Merit (1 oak leaf cluster), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, to name a few. The 2020 Veteran ERG Company of the Year Award was presented to Odalys Fajardo-Guerrero, Vice President for Global Investigations, Latin America, Africa & Canada, Walmart Inc., and Mike Caraballo, SVP, Project Management ManagerHome Lending Product Strategy and Delivery – Customer Contact & Default Decision (CCDD) at Wells Fargo & Company. Fajardo-Guerrero leads several teams that are focused on complex sensitive company matters. She has over 20 years of public and private sector investigations and security-related experience throughout Latin America, including seven years with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as a Case Officer having served in Latin America, Florida and Washington D.C. She also served 10 years with the U.S. Army as a Signal Officer, attaining the rank of Captain. Caraballo leads the Project Management team, Home Lending Product Strategy and Delivery – Customer Contact & Default Decision (CCDD), at Wells Fargo & Company. Caraballo has been in the financial services industry for over 20 years mostly in the Risk/Receivable Management industry at Wachovia (heritage), Capital One, and Chase. He has led teams in operations management, strategy & planning, and project management. He spent four years working in Business Development for a Catholic non-profit. Caraballo is a Retired Colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves, where he served for 34 years in the Infantry and Logistic branches. He also has over two years of deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The awardees honored for their service to our country, leadership, accomplishments, and commitment to building a strong community are:

United States Army: Major Kelly Ann Guerra
United States Marine Corps: Major Mabel B. Annunziata and Gunnery Sergeant Alice Ramos
United States Navy: Lieutenant Commander Joanna Maria Gonzales and Petty Officer Frances Hinojosa
United States Air Force: First Lieutenant Christine Gabrielle De Jesus; Master Sergeant Christian Johnson, and Civilian Mrs. Stephanie Garcia Reay
United States Coast Guard: Lieutenant Gabriella C. Deza and Petty Officer Phyllis Almaraz
United States Army National Guard: Lieutenant Colonel Lesbia I. Nieves
 
ACADEMY AWARDEES
United States Coast Guard Academy: Cadet Second Class Nayalina Evi Tamariz and Dr. Elizabeth Rivero

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