Name of Organization: Licentiam
Mark Vargas is a trusted adviser and close confidante to some of the highest-profile political and business leaders in America. He is widely respected as a tech entrepreneur in health care, and as a political opinion writer and advisor. He has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS Chicago, ABC 7 Chicago, ABC News, CNBC, Fox Business and the Fox News Channel.
From 2007 to 2010, Vargas served as a civilian within the Office of the Secretary of Defense on a special Iraq task force. The task force specialized in rebuilding Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s war-torn economies by attracting foreign direct investment opportunities and helping to facilitate public-private partnerships to create jobs and drive down the high unemployment associated with terrorist-related activities.
In 2009 he was awarded the Secretary of Defense Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal. His civilian service at the Defense Department included 14 trips to Baghdad spanning two administrations.
Vargas is a regular panelist and guest speaker on issues related to entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, political affairs, media strategy and foreign policy. Vargas is a contributor for the Washington Examiner and Newsmax.
In March 2019, Judson University’s World Leaders Forum announced, “Conversations with Mark Vargas,” a highly influential speakers’ series where Vargas invites some of the most recognizable names in business and politics to join him for an informal, one-on-one conversation covering a wide range of topics. His inaugural guest launching his new speaker series was billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Vargas earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Judson University where he served as student body president.
“Mentors provide invaluable advice, but if you want to boost your career, find your sticks of dynamite which will blow down doors and create instant opportunities for you.” –Mark Vargas
Desiree Vargas Wrigley
Title: Founder & CEO
Name of Organization: Pearachute
Desiree Vargas Wrigley is founder of Pearachute, a company that helps parents and children find the best family activities in town.
Prior to launching Pearachute, she co-founded GiveForward, the world’s leading crowd-sourcing platform for people facing a major life event. Under her leadership, the company helped friends and family contribute nearly $160M to loved ones in need.
After graduating from Yale University, she worked at the Kauffman Foundation as a specialist in entrepreneurship and at Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors.
Most recently, she taught New Venture Discovery at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She has been named to Inc’s 30 Under 30, Crain’s 40 Under 40, one of Parents Magazine’s Most Inspiring Moms, a Forbes Woman to Watch, and she has appeared on Shark Tank, closing one of the largest deals on the show to date.
When not working, she enjoys spending time with her two young sons, stepdaughter, and crime-fighting husband.
Title: Senior Director Business Development
Name of Organization: IHCC
Loretta Ivette Treviño as senior director of Business Development & Strategy at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she helps lead the premier Hispanic business, networking, advocacy and development organization in Illinois. She is responsible for managing and building relationships with corporate partners, members, and community leaders.
Treviño has had multifaceted roles with the IHCC in the last decade, from creating strategic events where she provides unique opportunities for the community to come together to build and foster relationships, to facilitating the IHCC + 1871 Latinx Incubator, working tech startups.
She has led the IHCC team in executing one of the largest gatherings of Hispanic business leaders in the Midwest, the Make the Connection!® IHCC Business Conference. Featured speakers have included former President Barack Obama, current Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin along with Nely Galan, founder of the Adelante Movement and Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block, My Hood, My City.
Treviño has a passion for economic development and supporting small businesses. A recent highlight was the first IHCC Women’s CEO Roundtable which convened 35 women CEOs and created a space to share challenges, opportunities and offer resources and support.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a minor in Public Policy from National Louis University. She is an alumna with Mujeres de HACE and a current fellow for the class of 2020 Chicago Latino Caucus Foundation, Leadership Academy.
She currently resides on the Southwest side with her husband and children where they remain very active in sports like baseball, basketball and rugby.
“Lead with integrity and purpose for when you follow your passion it results in profound impact, empowers and breaks barriers”.
Title: Communication Director/ Producer
Name of Organization: The Miracle Center
Vanessa Torres began early on at the non-profit organization that utilizes the performing arts as a catalyst for personal growth, leadership development, academic advancement and community engagement for children, youth and families in the Logan Square/Hermosa neighborhoods.
As an alumna of the The Miracle Center (TMC),Torres personally experienced the impact it can have on the lives of young people. Well before TMC though, she developed a love of the performing arts that began when her parents signed her up for dance classes at the age of 4. While the choice was made in part to give their daughter an outlet for her hyperactivity, her parents unknowingly gave her a treasure map that led her to discover her passion.
In addition to her early love for dancing, her participation in TMC programming starting at the age of 10 broadened her views and gave her opportunities to perform in music and theater. Her desire to use the arts as a tool for changing lives based on her own background inspired her to learn and apply frameworks for cross-cultural engagement through the arts.
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelors in Political Science, the 1st-generation Boricua brings extensive experience in the performing arts and public relations sector.
Her passion comes from TMC, which inspired and empowered her to pursue an internship at the Center for Portuguese Language and Brazilian Cultural Studies. Her experience also extends to program management and media relations through employment with leading advertising agency FCB Global, where she served as a social media strategist and community manager. She serves as a “Power House Millennial” Theater Producer, where she is responsible for the managerial functions of the production venue, helping with financial backing, and hiring personnel for the creative production team.
Martin V. Torres
Title: Senior Policy Advisor
Name of Organization: Office of Gov. Pritzker, State of Illinois
Torres’ career in public service is grounded in his belief that fostering upward economic mobility requires progressive policies and investments that support low and middle-income families.
Torres contributed to the success of Governor JB Pritzker’s first year in office as a member of his policy team. In 2019, he helped lead the development, negotiation, and passage of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act– the most equity-centric adult-use cannabis initiative in the nation. Torres also worked on other major priorities of the administration including the legalization of sports wagering, the state’s investment in Census outreach, education policy, and immigrant integration.
Prior to joining the administration, Torres served as Deputy Policy Director in the Governor’s campaign for office. He helped shape the Governor’s platform for education, immigrant integration, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ policy, and other issues affecting residents throughout the state.
Before joining the campaign, Torres was the Associate Director of the Latino Policy Forum. In that role, he guided the organization’s legislative agenda and administrative advocacy. In carrying out his responsibilities, Torres regularly convened Latino-led nonprofit service providers, civic leaders, and other stakeholders to develop and promote a common policy agenda that emphasized responsive governance, equity of opportunity and investment, and inclusive decision-making.
Torres holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a M.P.P. from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He lives in Oak Park with his wife, two children, and two dogs.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Title: Founder-Executive Director
Name of Organization: Yo Soy Ella
Sarah Taylor in 2012 launched her first non-profit venture, Yo Soy Ella, Inc. which translates to “I Am Her” – “We are whoever we wish to be, wherever our dreams take us; we let our dreams become us!” YSE serves as a support system, to empower and mentor the Latina woman’s mental and emotional needs. As a daughter of immigrants, Taylor witnessed her family’s urgency to seek opportunities to move the family forward.
Alongside her social impact endeavors, Taylor is currently contracted through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as a case coordinator for General Dynamics Information Technology, (GDIT) in direct services for unaccompanied minors who migrate to the U.S.
She has served as a Child Protection Investigator for the State of Illinois, therapist for adopted minors within Illinois’s child welfare system, co-facilitator for sex-offender support groups, and in previous years of service Taylor has worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services, providing public assistance and crisis intervention for Latino families.
As a wife and mother, Taylor balances her spare time with family while volunteering at various organizations throughout Chicago. As a certified Domestic Violence Awareness interventionist, she provides domestic violence education to small groups and served as a crisis-hotline volunteer for Mujeres Latinas En Acción, a domestic violence agency. She also volunteers as a therapist at Healthy Hood Chicago, for their Get Your Mind Right mental health initiative. Additionally, Taylor is an active member of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority and the Chicago Metropolitan Alumni Association and is an auxiliary board member for HACE, Young Professional Board, Chicago.
“I’ve acknowledged my experiences have placed a responsibility for me to advocate and empower the community with best strategies to live out their worst days. I call it a survivor’s mandate. Your story is a healing agent.” -Sarah Taylor
Title: Manager-People Strategy
Name of Organization: McDonald’s
Ana Sanchez, began her career with McDonald’s as a crew member and over the years held various restaurant positions including General Manager where she led restaurant operations, numerous field tests, along with training and developing people.
Within the McDonald’s Global Corporate structure, Sanchez held the Digital Engagement Supervisor role where she supported the implementation and deployment of the digital restaurant employee engagement platform for the US. Currently, Sanchez is the Global People Strategy and Alignment Manager, leading the alignment of initiatives through function-wide communication and engagement across the globe. She has also played a crucial role in the creation of the Global People Project Management Office, instilling discipline and building project management capabilities.
Sanchez has been recognized with accolades for outstanding achievements both for her operational excellence and leadership, including: People Award, Most Improved QSC Operations Award, the Outstanding Assistant Award and the Circle of Excellence Award. She also is the recipient of the President’s Award, McDonald’s most prestigious award recognizing the top 1% of employees.
She serves on the HQ agility board for the Hispanic Employee Business Network where she leads community engagement initiatives. She supports the McDonald’s Youth Opportunity program in numerous volunteering events throughout the year. She uses her experience in the restaurants and at McDonald’s HQ to serve as a mentor to McDonald’s restaurant employees and staff.
Sanchez is passionate about giving back and helping others rise as others have helped her. She has a Bachelor of Science from Lewis University and is currently pursuing her MBA in Business Administration from DePaul University.
She loves to travel and spend time with her husband and two children, Amaya and Roy.
“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” — Aristotle
Ernesto Saldivar, Jr.
Name of Organization: Torres Elementary- Acero Schools Chicago
Ernesto Saldivar, Jr. is a first-generation, bilingual, bicultural, Latino dedicated to transforming the landscape of education. He believes that all students and their families deserve access to schools that are safe and inclusive – schools that provide high quality culturally relevant and socially just opportunities where students can self-actualize as powerful human beings.
He is part of the Acero School Network serving as principal of Torres Elementary in Chicago’s Archer Heights’ neighborhood. Prior to his current role, he served in Chicago Public Schools since 2003 as a high school English teacher, teacher leader, and assistant principal.
His professional competencies have been demonstrated by his passion in Ethnic Studies. He maintains that Ethnic Studies is a way of life – it is love, it is liberation, it is empowerment through the unveiling of the covert oppression used in traditional K-12 spaces to stifle the innate power of students of color and other marginalized groups. Ethnic Studies is a pathway to consciousness that restores the past, heals the present, and builds the future.
In addition to being a highly accomplished educator, he is a 2019 Chicago Surge Fellow – The Emergents, Golden Apple Scholar, Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction. Most recently, he was named a 2020 Multicultural Leadership Fellow sponsored by the Latino Policy Forum.
“To joyfully evolve in mind, heart, and spirit, surround yourself with gente that unapologetically allow you to claim your cultural core. Let THAT ignite your passion to take charge, speak out, and intentionally transform systems that have been historically oppressive.”
Title: VP- Regional Director
Name of Organization: Wintrust Bank
Joel Rodarte oversees six branch locations including LaSalle Street, Pilsen and DePaul University, and the newly opened Little Village branch. Rodarte was born in Blue Island, Illinois to immigrant parents from Guadalajara and Aguascalientes Mexico.
After graduating from Eastern Illinois University, with a Bachelor of Science in Business – majoring in management he began his career with JPMorgan Chase Bank, where he managed several branches throughout the city for nearly a decade.
Rodarte then switched to Wintrust Bank where he helped lead its Chicago urban expansion, successfully opening branches in Pilsen and Little Village and was recently promoted to regional director. Rodarte knows the importance of community banking and Wintrust Bank’s goal to be Chicago’s Bank. He currently proudly serves on the board of directors for Esperanza Health Centers and previously served on the Associate Board of the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Gala Committee for Gads Hill Center.
As a proud Latino leader, he believes there is an obligation to the people that he serves and believes he and others should give back to support the community. He believes his generation has a responsibility to exceed America’s expectations of them and must work harder and smarter than anyone to continue to build the foundation started by the previous generation and set up the next generation to be even more successful than parents dreamed.
“Estoy muy orgulloso de ser Latino. Orgulloso de mi origen Mexicano. Felicidades a todos por su éxito. Les deseo una carrera con mucha prosperidad, pero sobre todo los invito que continuamos apoyándonos para seguir poniendo en alto a nuestra tierra.”