BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Aileen Rodríguez, President

Aileen Rodriguez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She spent her formative years living in Florida and Puerto Rico before settling in the Tampa Bay area in the 1980’s. She holds a BA in Organizational and Interpersonal Communications with a concentration in Psychology from the University of South Florida and is a USF Latino Scholarship recipient. She received leadership training through the American Management Association.

Professionally, Aileen is a public affairs executive with more than 20 years of experience leading public affairs and communications efforts for organizations in the arenas of health, education, government and tourism.  She is currently the principal of AR Public Affairs & Strategic Solutions.  Prior roles include working for Helios Education Foundation, the United States Senate, Moffitt Cancer Center and Walt Disney World.

Aileen believes in giving back to our community and has served the following boards and community organizations during her career:  The City of Tampa’s Human Rights Board, the Florida Public Relations Association, the Hillsborough Community College Foundation, USF's Latin Community Advisory Committee, Hispanic Professional Women's Association, Pan American University Women, The Housing and Education Alliance, WEDU Public Television’s Community Advisory Board, Ana G. Mendez University Community Advisory Board and the Junior League of Tampa’s Community Advisory Board.  She is a past recipient of the Tampa Hispanic Heritage Leadership in Business award and has served as Gala Chair, Communications Chair and past Vice President.

Aileen lives in Tampa with her husband and two children. She is passionate about the transformative power of education and its positive impact on our youth and community. She also values the importance of celebrating and preserving Hispanic Heritage within our community and instills these beliefs in her children.

Board Member since 2012

Odette Figueruelo, Vice President, Past President

Odette Figueruelo strongly believes in the power of education and the profound impact of community service. As a language and culture instructor she believes that it is imperative to promote cultural and educational events that will help preserve the Tampa Hispanic heritage.

Odette Figueruelo was born in Havana, Cuba and was raised in Madrid Spain. She moved to the United States in 1986. She graduated from The University of South Florida with a double major in Spanish and International Relations. In 2002 she earned a Master’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature. In 2010 she received a graduate certificate from the University of South Florida in gifted education. In 2015 she was to chosen to attend the Train-the-Trainer Institute at Yale University and completed the course “The Anchors of Emotional Intelligence”.

In 2017 Odette was recognized for her outstanding service and dedication to the community with the Hispanic Advocacy Award from the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Hispanic Council.  Odette is a former Board member of Taller Inter-Cultural Hispano-Americano (TICH) where she was involved with the Tampa community, working with the youth to help them achieve personal and academic success. Odette has been involved in different non-profit organizations in the Tampa Bay Area, such as Pan American University Women's Club and the Hispanic Professional Women's Association. She is currently a board director of Migrants Foundations Inc. She has been a board director of Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc since 2013, where she has been part of several committees and chaired the Kick-Off event. Odette has been the President of the Tampa Hispanic Heritage, Inc. for the last two years. Presently, she is the Vice President and serving as the Past President of the organization.

 

She taught at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS for many years where she developed and co-directed study tours from Madrid to Tampa and from Tampa to Madrid. She is presently teaching full time at Hillsborough Community College and she is also an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, Sarasota Campus.

 

She loves her Tampa community where she lives with her husband, son and extended family.

Gala Chair / Communications Committee Chair / Board Member since 2013

Oscar Vives Ortiz, Treasurer

As an Assistant Vice President and a Wealth Strategist, Oscar R. Vives Ortiz provides advice on complex estate and other wealth strategy issues. He has a high level of technical experience in estate, tax and wealth strategy issues. Oscar works with a team of specialists in investment management, trust and banking services to help clients achieve their financial objectives.

 

Prior to joining PNC Wealth Management, Oscar worked at Deloitte & Touche, one of the largest accounting firms in the world. He also spent time at an independent Registered Investment Advisor firm.

 

Oscar earned a Bachelor in Business Administration with concentrations in Accounting and Financial Planning from the University of North Florida. While at UNF, Oscar was a member of the Osprey Financial Group, where he helped to manage a portion of the University’s Endowment.

 

Oscar is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner, and a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). Oscar is an active member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

(AICPA).

 

Oscar has been quoted in various financial outlets including Investopedia, US News, and The Street.

Board Member since 2018

Maribel Garrett, Secretary

A native of Puerto Rico, Maribel has been in Florida for over 25 years.  She has always been in the field of Education and has always looked for ways to assist students and their families to be successful.  Throughout her career, her focus has been working on projects that allow her the opportunity to spread the word about the importance of education as is the case of her involvement in a Federal Grant that focused on enrolling students with limited English skills and or the first ones in their families to attend college. 

 

Maribel did this through her different roles at Hillsborough Community College, as  Assistant Dean and Dean of Student Services, where she provided services to students for over  15 years.  Prior to HCC, she worked for the University of South Florida providing support to families and teachers working with individuals with autism.

 

Currently, Maribel is the Director of Admissions for Corbett Preparatory School of IDS.  She serves as the Vice-Chair of the City of Tampa Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council and serves as Secretary for Tampa Hispanic Heritage, Inc. She is continuously looking for ways to get more involved in community organizations and assist the Hispanic community.

 

Maribel holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master of Arts from the University of South Florida.  Outside of work, Maribel enjoys spending family time with her husband, three daughters and her parents.

Essay Contest Chair, Board Member since 2017

Rafael E. Fuentes, Ph.D., Archivist

Dr. Rafael Fuentes is a Bilingual (English-Spanish) counselor, consultant, and adjunct professor. He is part of the Counseling Department at Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus. He has been working in the field for over sixteen years.

 

He earned his doctorate in philosophy in Clinical Sexology at The American Academy of Clinical Sexologists. He completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Springfield College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico. He is a Board Certified Clinical Sexologist by the American Board of Sexologist #2937 as well as Board Certified Human Services Practitioner (HS-BCP #1384).

 

He has become an expert working with multicultural issues because he has done most of his professional experience working with Hispanics, African-Americans, LGBTQ community and others. As an expert, he helps individuals who are struggling with relationship issues, anxiety, depression, stress, anger management and self-esteem.

Poster Contest Chair / Essay Contest Co-chair / Board Member since 2018

Adria Iraheta

Adria Iraheta, a Los Angeles native, is a reporter for Spectrum Bay News 9, focusing on stories that matter to the Hispanic community in Tampa Bay.

 

She is a first generation American, born to Mexican and Salvadoran parents. From a young age, her parents emphasized the importance of higher education. Thanks to their unrelenting support and sacrifice, she graduated from Biola University with a BA in journalism and minor in business administration. 

 

Her career as a reporter began in Texas, with stops in Amarillo and El Paso, before moving to Tampa. She has covered everything from murder trials to issues on the US/Mexico border. She has conducted interviews ranging from musicians, key political figures, to inspiring community members.

In her eyes, journalism is a catalyst for change. She loves using her voice to uncover issues that, in turn, help facilitate necessary changes on the local or federal level.

Adria is a big believer in giving back, building up the community, and helping youth reach their fullest potential. She speaks to kids in schools and encourages them to dream big. She also spends time mentoring college students as they prepare to enter the workforce.

Board Member since 2019

Alexandra K. Ojeda, Esq.

Alexandra K. Ojeda, Esq. was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico but grew up spending her summers in central Florida. She holds a BA in Communications and a Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico. In 2008 she was awarded the Cordova & Fernos Scholarship which afforded her with the opportunity to live in Washington D.C. and intern for Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL) for the fall semester. It is during that time that she became passionate about public policy, communications, and law.

Alexandra and her husband James relocated to the Tampa Bay area from Washington D.C. in 2016, where she worked for a non-profit as a federal relations manager. She currently serves as Hispanic Press Secretary for Senator Rick Scott. Previously, she worked as Hispanic Outreach Director for the Scott for Florida campaign and as Public Policy Manager for the Tampa Bay Partnership. 

 

As her career was very much shaped by the experiences she obtained as a scholarship recipient, Alexandra is passionate about connecting youth with learning and internship opportunities to help them discover their passions and shape their careers. 

Poster Contest Co-chair / Board Member since 2019

Armando Ovares

Armando was born in Los Angels, California while his father was stationed at the marine corps base camp Pendleton. During his youth, he spent 4 months every year learning his Mexican heritage while living with his grandparents on their ranch in Zacatecas, Mexico. Besides for a short residence in Arizona, Armando was raised by his mother and grew up in Metro Detroit, Michigan where he studied business administration and Latin American studies as part of the Chicano-Boricua Studies program at Wayne State University. While attending Wayne State Armando was very active but being a brother of the most honorable Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, INC. and serving as chapter president was most rewarding. 

 

Since winter of 2014, Armando has resided in Tampa, Florida where he found his passion while working as a Business advocate and Community events chair with Wells Fargo Bank. He helps local businesses and their employees to improve money management skills and financial wellness. Armando is a humanitarian, artist and devoted dog dad/trainer. When he’s not working you can find him volunteering, promoting equality and helping to reduce discrimination within the community. Armando strongly believes in giving back to the community that gives to him. 

Board Member since 2019

Digna Álvarez

Digna C. Alvarez was born in Havana, Cuba and was raised in Tampa. She has a degree in Business Management and worked in the private sector during her early adult life. 

 

Being a firm believer in public service, Digna proudly served her community for over 18 years as an aide first, in the Florida House of Representatives followed by the United States Senate. She continues to serve her community as the Deputy Director of Communications in the office of Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. 

 

Digna and her husband of 22 years have a daughter who is attending college and Digna’s bonus daughter recently made her an abuela of twins. Having always admired the hard work and dedication of the board members of THHI, Digna is honored to be a new board member and she looks forward to continuing the mission of THHI. 

Gala Co-chair / Board Member since 2019

Felix Figueruelo

Felix was born in Havana, Cuba. He has spent the majority of his life living in Tampa.

 

Felix has been in the DJ/ MC and Event Production field for many years and has worked with many Fortune 500 companies. He currently resides with is wife Mercedes in North Tampa.

Communications Committee Co-chair / Board Member since 2017

Fernando Velandia

Bio pending 

Board Member since 2019

María Pasetti

Maria Leto Pasetti was born and raised in West Tampa. Her mother, Josephine Militello Leto, worked at the Santaella Cigar Factory and her father, Rosario Leto immigrated from Santo Stefano Quisquina, Sicily owned the Palmetto Diary on Highway 301. The first part of her life was simple. She was married and has two wonderful daughters, Francine Pasetti and Janine Pasetti Belveal.

With her children fully grown, Maria embarked on the journey of a lifetime when she moved to Athens, Greece during the 1970s. This was a very turbulent time in Greece and political unrest made day to day living an adventure. She eventually obtained a job with the U.S. Government, which enabled her to travel to numerous countries and gave her the opportunity to experience rich and vibrant cultures. She later worked as an interpreter for a Greek lawyer, then on the cruise ship as a hostess for the Stella Solaris that eventually brought her back to Tampa.

Upon returning in 1979, Maria continued to share her experiences and her vitality through the art of dance. She became a dancer with the St. Petersburg Mexican-American Dance Company and the Tampa Folk Festival Dancers. Currently, she dances with the Cura Alba Flamenco Company and the Las Chicas de Oro (The Golden Girls). Maria is truly dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of cultural dances.

Maria credits her commitment to being a strong survivor. This quality has given her the ability to tirelessly donate countless hours of volunteer work during the span of her lifetime. At the Italian Club she has served as photographer, historian and the museum’s cultural curator. Maria has also loaned to the various events her private collection of Italian and Sicilian costumes to display for a greater exposure of the arts in the community. She has been recognized by several community organizations and has been the recipient of the "Amiga" award presented by the Hispanic Heritage, Inc. of Tampa.

Maria's passion and enthusiasm for art, history and different cultures has enabled her to be embraced by an entire community.

Lifetime Board Member

Ray Wong

Ramon, ‘Ray’ as he’s better known to friends, is a Sr Associate and Sr Architect with the architecture firm of Gresham, Smith.  A 20-plus year resident of Tampa, Ray divides his time between career, family and several community organizations that he’s committed to.

 

Ray is a member of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, a graduate of Leadership Tampa (class of 2017) and sits in the City of Tampa Community Advisory Committee for Downtown Tampa, the Advisory Committee for the Florida Center for Community Design + Research at USF and has previously served on the Board of the American Institute of Architects (Tampa Bay) as well as the Board of Hispanic Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs.

 

Originally from Panama, Ray hopes to use his own experience as a child immigrant to help motivate at-risk-youth looking to overcome the same cultural, economic and educational hurdles that he himself faced as a child.

 

Ray is a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of South Florida and holds Bachelors of Design in Architecture, a Master of Architecture degree, as well as a Master of Business Administration with a focus on Strategic Management.

Board Member since 2019

Carlo Cabrera

Carlo Marcelo Cabrera was born in Lima, Peru. He currently is the President of the Student Government Association for Hillsborough Community College – Dale Mabry Campus. He is now studying as a transfer student at the University of South Florida. Going for a double major in Political Science and History, a minor in Leadership Studies and a certificate in National Intelligence. After going to Law School, he hopes to one day run for office and become the next supreme court justice. He also is the current Krewe of Sant’ Yago Scholarship recipient, awarded to him by the HCC Foundation. Carlo is a strong believer in advocacy, resilience, and determination. He has shown these attributes throughout his stay at Hillsborough Community College as the President of the Student Government Association and by representing his student body in meetings with the college’s administration and by making decisions on behalf of fifteen thousand students.

 

In the local level, Carlo has been able to represent the Hispanic community by being part of the Hispanic Heritage Committee at HCC for being a minority-serving institution. Besides representing his Hispanic community, he has participated in the Honors Program at Hillsborough Community College, where he became an ambassador. With the help of his mentors and peers, he created an outreach program targeting local high schools around the area – to help them with basic information and knowledge about what it means to be a transfer student.

In the state level, Carlo currently serves in the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA), where he serves alongside the executive board as the State Parliamentarian and the Region 2 Juris Prudence. He also has been part of the business organization Phi Beta Lambda for 2 years, where he served as their secretary. Carlo also is a long-life member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and was part of their executive board; taking the position of treasurer in 2018.

In the federal level, Carlo has met with Congresswoman Kathy Castor regarding educational and environmental safety for all student in the Florida College System. As well as, gotten the opportunity to be part of a protest for a “Clean Dream Act” with the United We Dream Organization and HCC’s Community Based Activism – advocating on behalf of all of his undocumented students and those with temporary protected status.

Carlo hopes to bring his ideologies of Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Diversity (LEAD), into the Hispanic community and wishes to inspire the youth to be more civically educated.

Jr. Board Member since 2019

Daniel Casas

Mr. Daniel Casas was born in Anaheim, California. His parents are immigrants from Mexico who migrated in the 1970s. Mr. Casas currently attends Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus pursuing his Associate in Arts' degree with a concentration in Social Science. He is part of the Honors Program. Mr. Casas has the opportunity to study aboard with HCC. Mr. Casas is the first generation in his family to attend college. Mr. Casas plans to major in International Affairs and minor in Economics. His goal is to work for the United Nations or a government agency. One of his long term academic goals is to become a lawyer. 

Jr. Board Member since 2019

Olga Aranzabal

Olga Aranzabal was born in Cusco, Peru. In search of better educational opportunities, three years ago she moved from Peru to Tampa. In 2017, Olga participated in the Kick-Off Celebration (a signature event for THHI)  and became the Cultural Ambassador for THHI for the following year and then became Junior Board Member. She is currently in her last semester at Hillsborough Community College pursuing her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts and Science.

 

Olga is a student of the Dr. Lydia R. Daniel Honors Program and the Center for International Education where she has had the opportunity to serve as Honors Ambassador and as International Student Ambassador for both academic programs at HCC. She believes in the importance of education, and the opportunities that it brings. In addition, she feels that her different roles as Ambassador have given her the opportunity to share her personal experience and connect with other students to mentor and motivate them to keep up with their dreams. After getting her AA degree, Olga expects to continue with her education and major in biomedical sciences at the University of South Florida. 

Jr. Board Member since 2017

Rosabelys Rodríguez

Rosabelys Rodriguez was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1995 to parents from the Dominican Republic. She is currently a biomedical sciences senior at the University of South Florida, minoring in Psychology with hopes of becoming a Neonatologist. She is a dedicated member of the Dominican American Student Association at the university as well as the Dominican Association of Tampa, and is also a volunteer at Brandon Regional Hospital. 

Rosabelys states, "Education and Health are two things that are very important to me". She enjoys participating in Tampa Hispanic Heritaqge, Inc., and was selected as the THHI Cultural Ambassador and also Señorita República Dominicana in 2015. She is a ballerina and loves plane rides.

Junior Board Member since 2015

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 Promoting, preserving, and celebrating       Hispanic heritage in the Tampa Bay area         since 1979.

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