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Past Keynote Speakers

2021: Lupita Colmenero

Lupita Colmenero is the co-founder and publisher of El Hispano News newspaper in Dallas, Texas, Executive Vice President of LATINA Style Inc., and President and founder of Parents Step Ahead (PSA), a Dallas-based nonprofit. As President and Founder of PSA, Colmenero works to “recognize, educate, enable and empower parents to take a proactive role in the educational and personal development of their children." Colmenero has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the CubanNational Council and the National Association on Corporate Responsibility. In 2005 she was the first woman elected President of the National Association of Hispanic Publications Inc., where she championed the cause of minority owned businesses and prioritized training and mentoring Hispanic publications.

2020: Cecilia R. Aragon

Cecilia Aragon is the first Latina full professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the author of Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team. She overcame intense childhood fears to become an aerobatic champion, and then used what she learned from flying to achieve her goals in life, leading to President Obama calling her "one of the top scientists and engineers in the country."

Bio: Cecilia Aragon is a Seattle pilot, author, and professor. She's the first Latina full professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington in its 100-year history, and the winner of many awards for her work. She’s published hundreds of articles, co-authored the book Writers in the Secret Garden, taught astronauts to fly, and worked with Nobel Prize winners. She's the author of Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team, a memoir of overcoming racism, sexism, and intense childhood fears to become a champion aerobatic pilot. She used what she learned from flying to achieve her goals in life, leading to President Obama calling her "one of the top scientists and engineers in the country."

2019: Stephanie Villafuerte

For the past 30 years, Ms. Villafuerte has served as one of Colorado’s leading child advocates. As a practicing attorney and public policy expert, she has used her skills and education to advocate for the rights of Colorado’s abused and neglected children. Ms. Villafuerte currently serves as Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman. Her agency is responsibility for serving the Colorado community by reviewing citizen complaints about the child protection system as well as by making systemic recommendations to the Colorado Governor's Office and the Colorado State Legislature to improve the safety of Colorado’s children. Over the past three decades, Ms. Villafuerte has drafted numerous pieces of legislation and worked with legislators to pass nearly two dozen laws that protect Colorado children. Ms. Villafuerte’s passion in children’s issues stems back to her own upbringing. Ms. Villafuerte was raised by a single mother and lived in poverty for several years. During this time, she grew up in a neighborhood where domestic violence, drug abuse and child abuse were common. As a 6-year-old child, Ms. Villafuerte recalls seeing a young girl in her neighborhood, who was her same age, taken by ambulance to the hospital with severe injuries. She would later learn that the young girl had been sexually assaulted by her grandfather. Ms. Villafuerte recalls feeling scared and powerless, wondering how such terrible things could happen to a child. More importantly, she wanted to know how such tragedies could be prevented in the future. Decades later she would dedicate her professional career to helping solve these questions. Ms. Villafuerte is a second generation Mexican-American. She is the first in her family to attend college and obtain a graduate degree. She graduated from the University of Denver in 1987 earning a bachelor’s degree in public policy and communications. She would go on to attend UCLA Law School and graduate in 1991. While in law school she established the UCLA Women’s Law Journal--one of the first law school journals in the country dedicated to issues of gender, race and sexual orientation in the law. The UCLA Women’s Law Journal is now nearly 30 years old and continues to serve as an important legal resource on women’s issues for subscribers around the world.

2018: Prisca Dorcas

Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez was born in Managua, Nicaragua but calls Nashville,TN home. The bulk of her work is around making accessible, through story telling and curating content, the theories and heavy material that is oftentimes only taught in the racist/classist institutions known as academia. She is a full-time writer and currently working on a children’s book because as a brown girl who never saw herself represented in this project, she seeks to provide more representation for young black and brown girls. She started the platform Latina Rebels in 2013, and currently it boasts over 200k organic followers online. She has been featured in Telemundo, Univision, Mitú, Huffington Post Latino Voices, Guerrilla Feminism, Latina Mag, Cosmopolitan, Everyday Feminism, and was invited to the White House in the fall of 2016. She is unapologetic, angry, and uncompromising about protecting and upholding the stories of brown folks. Que viva la gente!

2017: Linda Alvarado

Linda Alvarado is a successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker. She is the president and CEO of Alvarado Construction, Inc. and has made history as the first Hispanic owner of a Major League Baseball Franchise. As an owner of the Colorado Rockies, her role marked the first time that any woman was involved in a bid for ownership of a Major League Baseball team. She has been the focus of many articles in newspapers, books, national magazines, and media broadcast productions. Alvarado has set high standards as a successful business owner and her accomplishments have opened doors for women and minorities to enter new careers. Her leadership in business, civic, and charitable organizations has earned her numerous awards for achievement. During the 2017 conference, she presented “What is a nice girl like you ding in a place like this?” to discuss the challenges she faced breaking into her industry, and how Latinas can overcome those barriers.

2016: Sarah Ortegon

Sarah Ortegon is an actress, artist, activist and a former Miss Native American, USA. Ortegon is of Spanish and Native American ancestry being Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho. She was the 2016 Wyoming Latina Youth Conference keynote speaker and she led her own art-based workshop at the conference.

2015: Shayla Rivera

Shayla Rivera is a former Aerospace Engineer with NASA turned Keynote Speaker, TV Host, Emcee/Host, Humorist, Comedian, Actor, Writer, Producer, Seminar Facilitator, Panel Moderator and Awareness Expert.

Her keynotes include subjects which span motivation, inspiration, leadership, diversity, education, STEM education, awareness, stress management, communication, the importance of humor and her life story.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera grew up with an avid interest in science, machinery and fixing things. Her family always encouraged her to go to college and have a professional career. Rivera attended Texas A&M University earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Psychology. She joined McDonnell Douglas Space Systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, to work on NASA’s Shuttle and Space Station programs for eight years.

Rivera left NASA to pursue her abiding interest in psychology trying to figure out what makes people tick. Her career took her through several years in Technical Sales of environmental systems and water treatment chemicals onto becoming corporate trainer. Rivera began facilitating life-changing seminars on stress management for executives at companies around the country. Shortly there after, she began giving motivational speeches. She applies her expertise as a speaker to help many non-profit organizations, charitable and educational programs. She has spoken to clients across the country including corporations, national and local organizations, and students from elementary school to college. Rivera has been speaking and performing for 21 years and has broad appeal to men and women of all backgrounds.

While she was conducting seminars, Rivera discovered she had comedic skills. She signed up for a weekend class on stand-up comedy, at the end of which she performed a five-minute routine. “It was a personal turning point. I knew I’d found what I was looking for,” Rivera recalled. 

Almost immediately, Rivera became a regular at Comedy Clubs nationwide.  She used her experiences to create the hit one woman show “Rocket Science and Salsa,” directed by Debbie Allen for which Rivera earned a "Best Lead Actress" nomination by the NAACP Theater Awards, as well as a nomination for "Best Choreography" for Allen. Rivera hosted the 13 episode TV series “You’re Not The Man I Married” for Lifetime Real Women Network.

She has appeared on television in “Comics Unleashed,” "Extreme Fakeover," "National Lampoon’s Funny Money," “Funny is Funny" and others.  She was a guest on “The Dennis Miller Show,” “The Roseanne Show” and ”The Martin Short Show."   Rivera was featured in the "Paul Rodriguez Latin All Stars" and was part of the Comedy Central special, “Comedy Rehab” with Paul Rodriguez.   She has also headlined on entertainment programs for Univision, Galavision and on “The Latino Comedy Jam” for Telemundo.   Rivera was named "Funniest Latina Comedian" by the organization "Latin 2015." 

In 2004, Rivera received the “Mario Moreno Cantinflas Award” presented by the city of Los Angeles in recognition of entertainers who "represent the Latino Community with the same humor as the great Cantinflas did" and for her involvement in the community.  In 2007, Rivera received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service Participation.  In 2010, Rivera received the Award for Excellence in Public Speaking by the Latino Speakers Bureau. 

Rivera performs live stand-up comedy nationwide and is very proud of her tours to entertain U.S. troops in Iraq and around the world.  In recent years, Rivera has served as host/emcee for many events, such as award shows, gala’s, fundraisers and festivals.  Shayla says, “My number one goal is to inspire, through laughter and my keynotes.”   Shayla has seen, first-hand, the impact the Latino population and culture has had in all levels of American corporations, organizations and education and is focused on helping make this merge occur as smooth as possible.  She jokes, “We are all the same only  different…once we understand this, we will be able to seize the opportunities that lie in our seeming differences.”

Shayla Rivera is not easily placed in just one category or class, she defines her own. 

2014: Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Headshot of Julianne E. SheperdJulianne Escobedo Shepherd is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor with a focus on music, style, and culture, who contributes to Rolling Stone, Vogue, SPIN, VIBE, Interview, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and many other publications. She is also a staff writer at Rookie, a website for teen girls; a professor of writing at the Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at New York University; and the host and DJ of Universópolis, a show focusing on music from Latin America and the diaspora, on East Village Radio ( 

Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, she attended Central High School, where she was awarded multiple scholarships to U-Cross, a teen writing camp outside Sheridan. Her focus is music, fashion, and culture journalism; she has interviewed musicians ranging from Nicki Minaj, Skrillex, and Cyndi Lauper, to Hollywood types such as John Leguizamo, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and John Singleton. She is currently working on a book about the history of voguing in New York City.

2013: Paulette Atencio

Paulette is a bilingual professional storyteller with over 25 years of experience.  She is an internationally and nationally recognized keynote speaker at business and educational workshops.

As a little girl growing up in Penasco, New Mexico, the youngest of ten children, Paulette was intrigued by storytelling, largely through the memorable experiences of listening to her mother’s renditions.  The children would gather at her feet, with only the glowing light from the fireplace, listening attentively to the tales of comedy, romance, tragedy and witchcraft.

“Having the ability to captivate an audience with just my voice is a rewarding experience.  Storytelling is an important means of perpetuating rich cultural traditions from generations past.”

2012: Magdalena Gomez

Headshot of Magdalena Gomez
Photo collage of Magdalena Gomez

"The creative power of Presence expands time, generates energy, and keeps bullies at bay, including the ones living in our heads. Everyone is creative, but not everyone knows it." – Magdalena Gomez.

Award-winning Performance Poet, Playwright, Art Educator, Columnist, and Inspirational Speaker

Magdalena Gomez, a Bronx native, is a multi-disciplinary artist, journalist, educator, playwright, producer, director, and personal trainer for the soul.

She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, and was designated a Master Artist by National Endowment for the Arts presenters, Pregones Theater, NYC.

In a 2006 conversation with the Co-President of the Latino Breakfast Club in Springfield, Massachusetts, H. Edgar Alejandro, she told him (a total stranger) of her vision to begin the first and only Latino theater in Springfield, MA. That was the beginning of Teatro Vida (the other TV), where Gomez is co-founder and artistic director.

2011: Dolores Huerta

President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW). Her lifelong journey has been working as a Community Organizer and Social Activist for over 50 years.

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