Essay Contest Chair, Leadership Class Chair, Board Member since 2017
Maribel Garrett, President
Maribel Garrett, President
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 is a member of the City of Tampa Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council and have served as secretary and Vice President for Tampa Hispanic Heritage, Inc. She has also chaired some of the organization’s Signature Events such as the Essay Contest and the 2019 Leadership Class.
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.
Board Member since 2020
María M. Bermúdez-Torres, Vice President
Maria (Meche) was raised in the Metropolitan area of Puerto Rico. Married to her high school sweetheart. Maria has lived abroad in Germany and Azores, Portugal, while her husband while serving in the military.
During her travels, Maria has held different roles aside from mother and wife. During her time in Germany, Maria was the key person while working at the Rhein-Main Base Hotel coordinating all key government and civilian delegates' needs: to include late President George Bush and Barbara Bush. While living in the Azores, Portugal Maria worked as a volunteer with the Public Affairs department. She would assist again with VIP such as Pope John Paul II.
Maria and her family relocated from Tucson, Arizona to the Tampa Bay area once her husband retired after 23 years of military service.
Maria earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in Latin American Studies. She also earned a master's from the University of South Florida in Adult Learning with a graduate certificate in Human Resources Leadership.
She is a mother of two; her son Steven is currently a student a Columbia University pursuing his doctoral degree in Adult Learning and Organizational Leadership, her daughter Charlye has completed her bachelors and is currently studying to pass her teachers certification.
Board Member since 2018
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
Oscar has been quoted in various financial outlets including Investopedia, US News, and The Street.
Junior Board Member since 2015
Rosabelys Rodríguez, Secretary
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 Heritage, Inc. and was selected as the THHI 2015 Cultural Ambassador. She was also the Señorita República Dominicana in 2015. Rosabelys is a ballerina and loves plane rides.
Board Member since 2018
Rafael E. Fuentes, Ph.D., Immediate Past President
Dr. Rafael Fuentes is originally from Salinas, Puerto Rico. He moved to Tampa, FL, in 2001 to pursue his American Dream. 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, Río Piedras Campus. He was a first-generation student.
Dr. Rafael Fuentes is a counselor, consultant, speaker, professor, and agent of change in the Tampa Bay community. He has been working in the mental health field for over eighteen years and in the academic field for ten years. He is a part of the Counseling Department at Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus where he helps students with their academic success. Dr. Fuentes is also a professor at Springfield College and Ana G. Mendez University.
Dr. Fuentes is knowledgeable in multicultural issues and works with Hispanics, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, and international students. As a mental health professional, he helps individuals who are struggling with relationship issues, anxiety, depression, stress, anger management, cancer survivors, immigration, and self-esteem. Dr. Fuentes has served on other boards such as the Board of Suncoast Mental Health Counseling Association, Springfield College Community Advisory Board, and the Latino Men Cancer Survivors at USF with Dr. Dina Martínez. Dr. Fuentes has served as a Tampa Hispanic Heritage, Inc.
Board Member since 2019
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 2020
As a Curriculum Designer for the Professional Development department at Hillsborough Community College, Ivan is in charge of most of the training for the staff members. He has served in this capacity since 2010. He has been working at HCC since 2006.
Ivan is a dynamic and enthusiastic trainer of Microsoft Office tools, Colleague (ERP system), SharePoint, and Active Shooter situations, among other topics.
Ivan serves at the Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc. Board of Directors, is the Founder & Chair of the HCC Hispanic & Latino Advisory Committee, and continues serving on the Black Brown and College Bound summit steering committee since 2014. He was the AFC HCC chapter Membership Chair 2018-19. He was the Co-Chair of ACD 2015 and the Chair of HCC Administrative Offices Advisory Council from 2012 to 2014.
Ivan enjoys updating his professional skills (Project Management, Professional Development, and survival strategies in violent situations) attending conferences, seminars, and online training. Ivan’s main professional development achievements are as follows:
• Certified College Professional Certificate from AFC - November 2017.
• Instructional Designer certificate from St. Pete College Workforce Department - October 2017
• Certified Instructor from ALICE (active shooter situation training) August 2016 – February 2021.
• Advanced E-Learning Instructional Designer certificate from ATD - February 2016.
• Project Manager certificate from USF - August 2008.
• Marketing Master’s degree from the EAFIT University in Colombia - 1999.
• Industrial Engineering Bachelor’s degree from the Javeriana University in Colombia - 1994.
Ivan is happily married, and with his wife Veronica, is the father of two girls. One 14 years old, who is a brilliant student starting the Engineering program at Middleton High School in Fall 2020 and received in 2017 the Igniting the Future Scholar from BFSA at USF. In addition, a six years old girl, that enjoys running, dancing, and singing around the house with her mother. Ivan spends his free time with his family traveling and as a real estate investor.
Jr. Board Member since 2019
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 2017
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.
Gala Co-chair / Board Member since 2019
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.