Leadership Team | Latino Leadership Institute
303-871-6742 info@latinoslead.org

LEADERSHIP TEAM

Staff

LLI’s staff members have backgrounds in the highest levels of public, private, and non-profit work. The LLI is led by a unique and accomplished team of individuals who share a passion for socially responsible leadership.

Joelle L. Martinez

President & CEO

Joelle L. Martinez

President & CEO

(She/Her/Hers) Joelle is a nationally recognized executive, strategist, speaker, and facilitator. A visionary leader, Joelle dedicates her life to helping cross-sector leaders realize their individual potential as well as the economic and social opportunities presented by an increasingly diverse U.S. populace. Prior to the LLI, Joelle spent more than 15 years building winning communications, business development, and public affairs strategies in both private and public sectors. Joelle is a subject matter expert in Neuroleadership, Latino identity, civic engagement, workplace diversity and inclusion, and demographic shifts. In 2017, Joelle was named one of the most powerful women by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, she was honored by the NFL Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Nationwide for her outstanding contributions to the Latino community. She currently serves on the Hispanic Advisory Council for Coca-Cola and has served on boards, advisory councils, and executive committees for Mile High United Way, Building Better Colorado, Museum of Nature and Science, Denver 7 Colorado, Prosper Colorado. Joelle is a member of the NeuroLeadership Institute and is a certified practitioner of both Insights Discovery® and i4®.

Aliena Martinez

Chief Operating Officer

Aliena Martinez

Chief Operating Officer

Aliena directs, oversees, and executes key organizational strategies for the LLI, including go-to-market strategy, program development, and marketing and communications. Aliena brings extensive experience in Fortune 500 corporate leadership, product development and management, marketing, and strategic organizational development. In a 2015 profile of her career by Hispanic Executive magazine, Aliena was named the “Merger Master” for being the “problem solver, strategist, analyst, and issues-juggler [who once solved] the puzzle of merging five companies into one” during her tenure at Miller Heiman Group, a global leader in sales training. Prior to joining the LLI, Aliena was a senior executive at Corporate Express, Miller Heiman Group, and Envysion, leading the development and management of a wide array of products and brands and using her position and strategic vision to shape the growth and future of each company. In 2021, Aliena was named a C-Suite Award Winner by the Denver Business Journal, an award given to senior executives who help CEOs achieve their vision in a rapidly changing climate. Aliena is an Alumna of the LLI Fellowship Program.

Harry Hollines

Chief Strategic Officer

Harry Hollines

Chief Strategic Officer

Harry is responsible for LLI’s corporate development, business development, and national partnerships. He also oversees the organization’s legal, administrative, and financial functions. Harry brings extensive experience in corporate and business development, entrepreneurship, and business law to his role, including senior executive experience at Verio, where he was part of the team that led its $5.5 billion acquisition by NTT Communications, iBAHN, MHI Global, where he led the acquisition of 6 companies to create one the world’s largest training companies, Envysion and Notion. Harry’s most recent venture was founding and running his own corporate and business development consulting firm, The Hollines Group, which focused on architecting growth strategies, deals and transactions for start-up, early-stage, and emerging technology and tech-enabled services companies. Harry has mentored start-up and early-stage companies through accelerators and incubators like Galvanize, Techstars, Rockies Venture Club, and Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute.

Michelle Martinez-Cardon

Director of Programs

Michelle Martinez-Cardon

Director of Programs

Michelle is responsible for the development, strategy, and delivery of LLI's professional development programs and Insight to Inclusive Leadership program. With 25 years in corporate program development and instructional design, Michelle has helped build training programs that are internationally recognized by both industry leaders and regulatory bodies. Most recently, Michelle served as Senior Training Specialist at Western Union, where she created, maintained, and updated company training materials and coordinated global and targeted training projects across the organization. Among her many areas of focus, she has specialized in human resources, where she developed leadership, diversity, and manager training. She has brought her expertise to other industries including telecommunications and aviation and is highly regarded for her comprehensive knowledge of training requirements. In 2021, Michelle received the Western Union WU Way Stars Award for Process Improvement Implementation after working on a year-long project to improve a global training program that covered 90+ countries. Michelle is an Alumna of the LLI Fellowship Program.

Melissa Black

Program Manager

Melissa Black

Program Manager

(She/Her/Ella) Melissa is responsible for program management, including the day-to-day and long-term execution of client engagements. With 10 years of experience in customer service and 3 years of technical support, she specializes in program management tools and documentation writing with a commitment to quality, creative solutions, and professional well-being and balance. Prior to joining the LLI, Melissa was a customer support administrator at the Business Enterprise Institute. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and is a Hispanic Scholarship Fund recipient. A world traveler, she has studied abroad in Lima, Peru, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Melissa celebrates her authentic self by volunteering with Girls Rock Denver, Denver Public Library, and Casa Marianella Inc. She is passionate about changing the professional landscape in a way that truly reflects our diverse nation.

Graciela Gonzales

Communications & Marketing Manager

Graciela Gonzales

Communications & Marketing Manager

(She/Her/Hers) Graciela brings her passion and expertise in communication to the LLI. Her work focuses on internal and external communications, ensuring the consistent and engaging expression of the Institute’s messaging across all media. Her role includes developing and supporting marketing and communications strategies and campaigns. In 2020, Graciela was instrumental in organically growing the LLI’s social media audience by 200%, highlighting data and stories of the Latino community and COVID-19. Since then, the LLI's LinkedIn page has become a national leader in monthly engagements among influencers calling attention to Latino leadership and issues affecting the Latino community. Graciela received her MA in Teaching from Brown University and her BA in Sociology from Wellesley College. She is a Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers scholar and served as a White House Intern in the Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration. Graciela is a proud former Denver Public Schools educator. She is passionate about elevating the voices and influence of the Latino community.

Robbin Meneses

Program Manager

Robbin Meneses

Program Manager

(Él/He/Him/His)  Robbin communicates with and supports the LLI’s Latino Entrepreneur Access Program (LEAP) partners, clients, and internal team members. Prior to joining the LLI, Robbin worked as an engaged philanthropy officer at The Denver Foundation, leveraging communities and individuals to invest in high-need areas while creating learning opportunities promoting racial equity. He has spent years fundraising and community organizing for various nonprofits across the globe focused on health, education, immigration, and the environment. Robbin draws on his passion and experience with social equity work to help individuals, businesses, and nonprofits realize their full impact as changemakers and effective altruists.

He holds an Executive Master of Public Administration degree with a focus in Nonprofit Management from Florida International University. Outside of work, Robbin works with other Latino leaders across Denver through Latino Outdoors and by providing collective grant opportunities through the giving circle, Latinos Impacting Our Future Together.

Yesenia Ramirez

Administrative Associate

Yesenia Ramirez

Administrative Associate

Yesenia is responsible for providing services to a wide range of internal team members and external partners. A veteran and former U.S. Army Medical Specialist, Yesenia began her career administering emergency medical treatment to battlefield causalities and is a recipient of the Army Accommodation and the Army Achievement Medals. Yesenia is first-generation, first in her family to graduate with a degree, and has over 15 years of experience in administrative planning and execution. Prior to joining the LLI, Yesenia was a senior craft services administrator at Swinerton Builders and a behavior therapist at Ascend Behavior Partners. She is the proud wife of U.S. Army Staff Sargeant Ramirez and the mother of 3 kids and 2 dogs. Yesenia uses her experience and expertise to be an advocate for the Latino community, mental health services, and the Wounded Warriors Project.

Board

The Latino Leadership Institute is led by a board of accomplished leaders who represent multiple sectors and industries. Board members are invested and engaged, bringing a vast range of knowledge and experience to the Institute.

Sylvan “Sibito” H Morley III

Board Chair

Sylvan “Sibito” H Morley III

Board Chair

Sylvan “Sibito” H Morley III is an accomplished C-level executive who leverages deep technology expertise to drive operational efficiency and achieve significant business outcomes. He is recognized for thought leadership, game-changing technology innovation, and aligning strategic business priorities with organizational capabilities to improve productivity. In his work, Sibito leverages skills, processes, and technology to develop and implement solutions that reduce costs and inefficiencies, streamline operations, and drive top and bottom-line growth. He draws upon global leadership experience and has successfully managed multimillion-dollar technical programs through vast global teams. Sibito is an expert in organizational risk management.

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez recently served as Director of Global Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Relations for Ball Corporation, and executive director of The Ball Foundation. During his career, he has counseled nonprofits and Fortune 500 corporations, including AT&T, Qwest (CenturyLink), Martin Marietta (Lockheed Martin), and the Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc. Chris previously served as Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations for rocket company United Launch Alliance. In that role, he developed and managed a robust community investment program, including employee volunteerism, for ULA’s corporate hub and manufacturing sites across the U.S. Chris is an active member of the corporate citizenship community and serves on the board of trustees of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He is a past board member of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Leadership Foundation, Denver Public Schools Foundation, Colorado Nonprofit Association, Museo de Las Americas, The Park People, Metro Volunteers, Mayor’s Commission on Strategic Partnerships, and the Latin American Research & Service Agency (LARASA). Chris earned the Boston College Carroll School of Management, Corporate Community Involvement certificate, and holds a degree in journalism from the University of Wyoming.

Diane Garcia

Diane Garcia

Diane Garcia has been a human resource professional and executive for more than 20 years, spending most of her career in the global high tech sector. She thrives in evolving and dynamic work environments with expertise in leading organizational turnarounds along with mergers and acquisitions. Diane began her career out of high school as an intern for Inroads, where she spent four years developing leadership skills and working for the Public Service Company of Colorado. After spending an additional eight years with the company in multiple human resources roles, Diane was recruited to the high-tech startup company, Level 3 Communications, where she spent 16 years in various senior leadership positions, most recently as the Vice President of North America and Corporate Recruiting.

Mark Goodman

Mark Goodman

Mark Goodman is a results-driven executive with experience in global brand development, building and rebuilding brand operations within consumer-driven retail food and financial service industries. He has held significant leadership positions, including key roles at Fortune 1 and 50 companies. Formally, he was the EVP, Chief Marketing Officer at Walmart/Sam’s Club and the Corp. VP, U.S. Brand & Strategy at McDonald’s. Mark serves as Chairman of the Colorado Nut Holding Company and is on the Board of Directors for Pinnacol Assurance Insurance Company and Bellco Credit Union. He also serves on the board of trustees at Xavier University of Louisiana where he chairs the development committee. Mark is passionate about the role of higher education in helping people from all walks of life become successful in their chosen field of interest and has been active in supporting educational institutions on a national basis over the last several years.

Sandi Mays

Sandi Mays

Sandi’s passion is providing an effortless customer experience for both internal and external customers. Sandi is a champion for diversity in the tech community and serves on the Salesforce CIO Advisory Board and the Denver Metro Chamber Economic Development Executive Committee. She is also a patron/supporter of the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Ballet, Denver Performing Arts Center, Greenhouse scholars, and an active member of many minority and diverse charities. In 2016 Sandi was named Women in Comms Leading Lights: Most Inspiring Woman in Comms. Previously, Sandi served in various management positions at ICG Communications, Level 3 Communications, MFS Telecom, WorldCom, Focus Enterprises, and Northern Trust. Sandi earned a B.S. magna cum laude in Finance from DePaul University.

Zach Portilla

Zach Portilla

Zach Portilla is based in Denver, CO where he serves as Chief of Staff to the Chief Growth Officer at Avanade, the world's largest joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft. Most recently he served as Director in the Office of the Chief Commercial Officer at ThoughtWorks, Inc. Previously, Zach served as the Chief of Staff to the U.S. Ambassador James Costos at U.S. Embassy Madrid, Spain. Prior to his work in Madrid, he served as Founding Director of the Obama for America Futuro Fund where he raised 30 million dollars from the Latino community across the U.S. Before working on President Obama’s reelection campaign, he was appointed as the Assistant to the Director of Priority Placement in the White House Presidential Personnel Office. There he worked to identify the most qualified candidates to fill political appointments across all agencies. His professional career began as a Regional Field Director on the Obama-Biden Pennsylvania Campaign for Change. Zach is an alumnus of the Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a BA in Political Science, graduating with Highest Distinction.

Tonette Salazar

Tonette Salazar

.As Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Strategies 360 in the Colorado Office, Tonette Salazar brings more than twenty years of expertise to S360's clients. She serves as a strategic thinking partner and advocate for her clients, helping them navigate complex policy issues in the state. Tonette has a strong history of success in the Colorado legislature and political arena. As an experienced lawyer and lobbyist, she has advocated for an array of education clients including school districts, community colleges, school counselors, and career and technical education organizations. Tonette has also worked extensively on homeowner association issues, labor and employment issues, and workforce issues. Tonette's most notable achievements include leading the lobbying effort to help secure passage of in-state tuition and financial aid for undocumented students, negotiating a compromise on construction defects, and creating new special education funding formula for public education. Tonette tackles complex challenges with strategic thinking, thorough policy analysis, and powerful coalition building. A native of Las Cruces, NM, Tonette holds a BA from the University of Denver and a JD from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She also volunteers her time by serving on the Mile High United Way Board of Trustees and chairs the Program Strategy Committee. She lives in Denver, CO, with her husband and three children. As a former competitive gymnast and judge, Tonette now spends her time supporting her children's endeavors in dance, baseball, and taekwondo.

Peter R. Villegas

Peter R. Villegas

Peter R. Villegas is Co-Chairman of the Los Angeles office of Mercury, a leading global, bipartisan public strategy firm. Mercury provides a comprehensive suite of services that includes federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy, and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states. Prior to joining Mercury, he served as Vice President & Head of Latin Affairs at The Coca-Cola Company for over six years, where he acted as a national spokesman responsible for North America. There he developed and executed local, regional, and national strategies that positioned The Coca-Cola Company as a leading corporate citizen in the U.S. Hispanic community, using his solid and well-established relationships with Hispanic and multi-cultural political, business, civic, and community leaders across the country. Peter has 25 years of experience in corporate America and began his career as a bank teller, working his way up through various roles in the financial industry, and has spent the last 15 years in key management positions. In 2012, he received the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Corporate Advocate of the year award and has been recognized as one of the top Latino Executives in corporate America by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility and Hispanic Executive Magazine.