Building a Better Future: The Latino and Puerto Rican Policy Agenda Summit

On behalf of the University of Connecticut (UConn)’s Puerto Rican/Latino Studies Project, UConn School for Social Work, UConn’s Puerto Rican Studies Initiative, and the Connecticut General Assembly’s Latino & Puerto Rican division of the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity, and Opportunity (CWCSEO), we extend a heartfelt invitation to you.

We are thrilled to invite you to the "2024 Building a Better Future: The Latino and Puerto Rican Policy Agenda Summit," scheduled from 8:30 AM to 5 PM on Saturday, January 20, 2024, at the Hartford Marriott Downtown.

The summit seeks to identify and prioritize areas for improvement in our rapidly growing community. We are here to collaboratively set an agenda for the Latino community. Our esteemed gathering will include key Latino and Latina leaders from Connecticut, students, and civically engaged municipal community leaders – truly, the who's who of the Latino community in our state.

The Vision of the Summit

  • Our goal is to establish a comprehensive non-partisan agenda for the Latino community in Connecticut.
  • We aim to provide essential information to policymakers, encourage civic participation, and address critical gaps in data analysis for our community.
  • The summit serves as a platform to inform and enhance leadership within the Latino community, empowering community leaders, elected officials, and advocates.
  • Beyond agenda-setting, the event provides a unique space for networking, fostering connections and collaborations within and beyond the Latino community.
  • Provide essential information to policymakers, ensuring that the needs and concerns of Latinos in Connecticut are given due consideration.
  • Promote active civic participation by disseminating accurate and accessible information on current socio-political issues, encouraging proactive engagement and informed decision-making within the Latino community.
  • Consolidate the themes and priorities expressed during the preceding community dialogues into a comprehensive report for further discussion and distribution.
  • Facilitate networking opportunities by creating a platform for attendees to connect, collaborate, and build meaningful relationships within and beyond the Latino community.
  • Unveil innovative data tools that will address critical gaps in data analysis for the Latino community. These tools will empower our community and lawmakers with comprehensive, up-to-date information for informed decision-making and advocacy.

Panelists and Moderators

  • Alfaro, Ana - With over 25 years of experience, Ana Alfaro is currently the Corporate Citizenship Program Manager and Hispanic Media Relations at Eversource Energy. She's also a producer and host for Univision and UniMas. Actively involved in community service, she's on boards like Trinity College Center for Caribbean Studies and Hartford Public Library.
  • Alvelo, Sonia - Sonia Alvelo, born in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, founded Latin Financial in 2012. The company donates 1% of its profits to Connecticut Children’s Hospital. Alvelo is the first Latina on the board of directors of the Better Business Bureau of Connecticut and has received several awards, including Entrepreneur of the Year.
  • Arzeno, Hector - An Argentine native, Hector Arzeno serves as State Representative for Connecticut's 151st District. With a background in international finance, he is actively involved in his community and serves on several committees focusing on education, environment, and higher education.
  • Barela, Kenneth -- Kenneth Barela, with over 35 years in the non-profit sector, has extensive experience in healthcare and human service organizations. He is skilled in assessing community needs and interests, leading to successful projects. A U.S. Army Infantry Officer, Barela served in Desert Storm and was also a mayor in Colorado. He's a published author, with his book "Parables on Leadership Values" released in 2023, and holds an MBA from the University of Denver.
  • Betancourt, Fernando - Fernando Betancourt, the Executive Director of the San Juan Center in Hartford, has a history of service including chairing Connecticut's largest anti-poverty nonprofit and leading the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. He was honored as the 2023 Hartford Day Parade's Padrino.
  • Bond, Maritza - With over 20 years in public health, Maritza Bond is the Director of Health for New Haven. She has led significant initiatives, including New Haven's COVID-19 response and establishing Connecticut's first contact tracing program.
  • Diaz, Nitza M. - is an Education Consultant at the State Education Resource Center and the CT Parent Information and Resource Center, specializing in family engagement, equity, special education, and multilingual learners. She plays a key role in the African-American/Black and Puerto Rican/Latino Curriculum, an elective course for Connecticut high schoolers. Known for her expertise in social justice and bilingual education, Nitza has led numerous professional development sessions and presentations at various levels. She holds a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College, a Master's in Public Health, and a Master of Arts from the University of Connecticut, and is pursuing her doctoral degree in education.
  • Figueroa, Anabel - The first Latina to represent Connecticut's 148th district, Anabel Figueroa has been a resident of Stamford for 40 years. She currently serves on the Stamford Board of Representatives and works in the local healthcare system.
  • Felipe, Antonio - State Representative Antonio Felipe, serving the 130th district in Bridgeport, is known for his community service and political activism. He holds leadership positions in state service and is Vice Chairman of the CT Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
  • Gonzalez, Minnie - State Representative Minnie Gonzalez, serving Hartford's 3rd district, has been a committed advocate for education, housing, and youth services. She has a long history of community service and political involvement, currently serving as the Deputy Speaker.
  • Hernandez, Steven - Steven Hernández, Esq., is the Executive Director for the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity in Connecticut. With diverse experience in law and public policy, he has significantly contributed to legislative and community initiatives.
  • Hoeft, Fumiko - Dr. Fumiko Hoeft is the Campus Dean and CAO at UConn Waterbury. She is a distinguished researcher in neurology, learning, dyslexia, and neurodiversity, holding prestigious affiliations and having received numerous awards.
  • Jeorge, Adela - Adela Jeorge is the Principal of Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy in New Haven. With a background in Psychology, Elementary Education, and Administration, she has extensive experience in bilingual education and teacher training.
  • Martas, Yvette - Dr. Yvette Martas is an Obstetrics and Gynecology practitioner with 33 years of experience. A Yale graduate, she's contributed to global health and women's health education. She currently practices at Mansfield Ob GYN Associates and teaches at UCONN Storrs.
  • Mosquera-Bruno, Seila - Seila Mosquera-Bruno, Connecticut's Commissioner of Housing, oversees state housing policies and initiatives. Her leadership has led to significant affordable housing developments and emergency relief measures.
  • Nieves, Hilda - Hilda, who retired in 2010 after 33 years with the Connecticut Judicial Branch, held significant roles in Adult Probation and Bail Services across New Haven, Middletown, and Meriden. Her career spanned various capacities, including working with New Haven's Children In Placement Program and serving as a Guardian Ad Litem in the probate court systems of Hartford, Middletown, and New Haven. She also supported victims of sexual assault and domestic violence at the Women & Families Center in Meriden and volunteered with the Red Cross and Newington's election activities. Currently, Hilda is a board member of the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity, chairing their Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Subcommittee.
  • Oyanadel, Werner - Werner Oyanadel, originally from Chile, is the Latino and Puerto Rican Policy Director for Connecticut's General Assembly. He's recognized for his contributions to public service, policy development, and community advocacy.
  • Pizarro, Bruni - Bruni Pizarro is the Director of Brand Strategy & Co-Founder of For La Diáspora. With experience in environmental science and advocacy, she focuses on climate change impacts and serves on various committees and boards.
  • Quinones, Helen - Helen Quinones, an Ecuadorian immigrant, is a community organizer at Make the Road CT. She's dedicated to improving educational access and advocating for English Language Learners.
  • Reyes Jr., Geraldo - State Representative Geraldo Reyes Jr. represents Connecticut's 75th Assembly District. With a background in manufacturing engineering, he is a recognized community leader and advocate for environmental issues and education equity.
  • Robles-Rivas, Evelyn - Dr. Evelyn Robles-Rivas is the Supervisor of Language & Community Partnerships at Meriden Public Schools and past-president of CALAS. She has expertise in curriculum development and instruction.
  • Rojas, Jason - Jason Rojas is the House Majority Leader representing Connecticut's 9th Assembly District. He's deeply involved in community service and policy interests ranging from government finance to affordable housing.
  • Rosado, Maly D. - Maly D. Rosado is a member of the Court of Common Council, advocating for equitable housing and civic engagement. She brings a diverse experience in city government and community service.
  • Sanchez, Robert - State Representative Robert Sanchez serves the 25th Assembly District in New Britain. His focus is on quality education and community development, with significant roles in various local organizations.
  • Santiago, Hilda E. - Hilda E. Santiago, Assistant Deputy Speaker Pro-Tempore, serves Meriden's 84th Assembly District. A dedicated advocate for civil and human rights, she has been a pioneering Latina leader in her community.
  • Smith, Tanya Rhodes - Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW, is an Instructor in Residence at the School of Social Work and Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. She specializes in policy development, voter engagement, and legislative advocacy.
  • Sprague Martinez, Linda - Dr. Linda Sprague Martinez is a Professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine. Her expertise lies in health equity, community-based participatory research, and youth empowerment.
  • Torres-Rodriguez, Leslie – Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez is the Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut. Originally from Puerto Rico, she moved to Hartford as a child and graduated from Hartford Public High School. With over 25 years in education, she previously held roles as Acting Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Leadership in the same district.
  • Venator-Santiago, Charles R. - Dr. Charles R. Venator-Santiago is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut with expertise in political science, Latin American studies, and climate change impacts. He is also director of UConn’s Puerto Rican Studies Initiative and El Instituto: Institute for Latino/a, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies.
  • Werkmeister Rozas, Lisa - Dr. Lisa Werkmeister Rozas is a Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She focuses on coloniality, implicit bias, and intersectional identities, emphasizing critical consciousness in advocacy.
  • Williams, Jay – Jay Williams has been the President and CEO of the Hartford Foundation since July 2017, focusing on dismantling structural racism and improving social and economic mobility. He serves on several boards and is a member of the Governor’s Workforce Council. Previously, Williams was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and the Deputy Director at the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. He also served as Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio.

For any questions or additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at or by phone at 860-372-1022.

Thank you sincerely for considering our invitation. We eagerly anticipate the possibility of your invaluable participation.