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White House Honors ICS As “Champion Of Change” In Connecting The Americas

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On Friday, July 27th, the White House, along with the U.S. State Department and U.S. AID, will honor Dr. Claire Nelson, founder and president of the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) as a Champion of Change.


Champions of Change are leaders who have exemplified extraordinary successes and efforts toward the development of – and diplomacy with – their countries or communities of origin.


“The nine Champions of Change we honor today highlight the power of proximity.  These members of the Latin American Diaspora remind us that geography matters, that being a good neighbor is both good manners and a good investment.  The Champions that we recognize today have helped their countries and communities of origin, and in doing so have bettered our region as a whole,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.


“These exceptional individuals, with their work in sports and community development, in education and financial inclusion, inspire others by their example.  In a region with such profound human links between our societies, ideas and inspiration spread quickly to the benefit of people all over the Americas and the Caribbean.”


Dr. Nelson will be recognized for her work with the Caribbean American Diaspora and among other things advancing exchanges and partnerships with both the US public and private sector. ICS has planned forums and conferences, mentored Caribbean American leaders and organizations around the country and served as a National Profile Partner for Census 2010. She has also been instrumental in encouraging Caribbean American civic engagement and promoting the engagement of the Caribbean Diaspora in the development agenda of the Caribbean region.


An international development expert with over thirty years of experience, Dr. Nelson has used her passion and acumen to open doors for the disadvantaged and excluded across the Americas.


She is also an accomplished playwright and Caribbean folkloric performer, holds a Bachelors and Masters in Industrial Engineering from the SUNY at Buffalo and Purdue University respectively, and a Doctorate in Engineering Management from the George Washington University.


The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.


To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 10:30 am ET on July 27th.


Dr. Nelson will be honored alongside eight other individuals.


Luis Aguirre-Torres

Luis Aguirre-Torres is the founder and CEO of GreenMomentum and Cleantech Challenge México, two organizations created with the purpose of promoting, developing and implementing clean technology, as well as green Jobs, in Latin America. During the past three years, he has overseen the execution of several region-wide programs that seek to promote the development, licensing and transferal of clean technology. The result has been the creation of more than a thousand green jobs and the creation and financing of more than a hundred Latin American clean tech start-up companies. The implementation of these programs has led to the creation of a new ecosystem of collaboration among the public and private sector, research centers and private venture capital firms. He is also the founder of Impulso Verde, a non-profit organization whose mission is to create new job opportunities and the retraining of the Mexican workforce.


Andres “Elmer” Arias

Elmer Arias is a Salvadoran-American citizen who leads the Futbol Positivo (Positive Soccer) project in Fairfax County, Virginia. Futbol Positivo began three years ago when the Fairfax Police Department contacted Mr. Arias to build a bridge with the growing Latino Community, affected by a high crime rate among children and teenagers. The crime rate in the area dropped after Elmer began organizing soccer tournaments in Fairfax County, and the program has been extended to places like Springfield, Reston and Culmore. He also works as a president of the Foundation for Educational and Cultural Development (FUPEC, in Spanish), which teams up with hometown Salvadorans associations in the United States and private companies to help public schools in poor areas in El Salvador with computers and basic infrastructure.


Greivis Vasquez

Greivis Vasquez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela is a professional basketball player for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. After receiving his degree in communications from the University of Maryland in 2010, Greivis realized a lifelong dream by being drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft to play for the Memphis Grizzlies. Greivis devoted much of his free time over the years to youth sports camps in Venezuela and was invited to partner with the US State Department in their “Sports Diplomacy” program to help foster improved relations between the two countries.


David R. Ayón

David R. Ayón helped found and develop the Mexican American Leadership Initiative (MALI), a program of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation that enlists bi-national support to strengthen civil society in Mexico. MALI has called attention to and aided grassroots organizations working in marginalized communities and that provide alternatives for at-risk youth in areas such as Juárez. With the backing of the Kellogg Foundation, MALI and the USMF have launched an innovative People-to-People program assisting community projects and organizations in southern Mexico. Ayón serves as co-chair of MALI and coordinated the U.S.-Mexico Migration Dialogue of the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center.


A. Patricia Janiot

A. Patricia Janiot is the President of Fundación Colombianitos. She is one of the founders of the organization, which is dedicated to helping Colombian kids who are living in poverty. With more than 10 years in operation, Patricia has led the growth of Colombianitos from 42 children in 2001 to approximately 4000 in several Colombian cities. She is the senior news anchor at CNN en Español, where she has covered major news events in Latin America and the rest of the world for over 20 years. She is also the Director of Innovadores de América.


Alvaro Maldonado

Alvaro Maldonado is a professional concert dancer and an entrepreneur. A survivor of El Salvador’s civil war, Maldonado is the founding Director of Ballet Teatro Internacional (BTI), a non-profit organization created under a social entrepreneur model that generates transformational dance training programs in the U.S and in Central America. BTI’s programming aims to inspire neglected, low-income and under-educated youth to enhance their health, aspirations, achievements, skills and life chances, and to deter them from a life of drugs, violence and other anti-social behavior, by creating transformational Dance training programs that tap into their power to believe in themselves.


Ana Moraga

At age thirteen, Ana Moraga Archila immigrated to the United States from Guatemala City. She worked with several youth and human rights organizations in San Francisco, California before attending Loyola Marymount University. Upon graduation, Ana moved back to Guatemala and founded MuJER- Mujeres por la Justicia, Educación y el Reconocimiento (Women for Justice, Education, and Awareness). For five years Ana led the organization’s funding and operational efforts in opening spaces of empowerment for Central American women sex workers. While attending Northeastern University School of Law, Ana is an advisor to MuJER’s Board of Directors and continues to work with other women’s organizations. Ana is passionately driven by the field of international women’s rights where she hopes to apply her Juris Doctor degree in the near future.


Raul Hinojosa Ojeda

Professor Raul Hinojosa Ojeda is an Associate Professor in the Division of Social Sciences and the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, he received a B.A. (Economics), M.A. (Anthropology) and Ph.D. (Political Science) at the University of Chicago. Dr. Hinojosa Ojeda founded the North American Integration and Development Center at UCLA in 1995, dedicated to developing innovative research agendas and policy pilot projects empowering the transnational Diaspora and development in home communities. Dr Hinojosa has served as a board member of the Los Angeles Community Development Bank and the International Community Foundation, and he has been appointed to the Economic Strategies Panel of the State of California and the Los Angeles Office of International Trade. Dr. Hinojosa Ojeda is also the Founder and CEO/Chairman of SF Global, LLC, social empowerment innovation company, focused on the development and implementation of low cost, secure and accessible financial services to the unbanked and under-banked populations in the United States Diaspora and their home countries. Dr. Hinojosa Ojeda has been a visiting scholar at the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and at several academic institutions in Mexico and the United States.


To learn more about the Champions for Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions. 

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