Six Badgers recognized in list of Wisconsin’s most influential Latino leaders for 2021

Six UW–Madison alumni were recognized by Madison365 last week as being among the “Most Influential Latino Leaders” list for 2021.

A nonprofit online news publication, Madison365 has published annual power lists recognizing Wisconsin leaders from different racial and ethnic groups since 2015. The purpose of the lists is to “highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state” and lift up role models for Wisconsin’s young people, according to Henry Sanders, Jr., co-founder, publisher and chief executive officer of Madison365.

“This list couldn’t possibly include every Latino doing good work in the community. It does, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the state or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.” Sanders said.

Congratulations to the Badgers below who received this well-deserved recognition. You can read the full post at Sí Se Puede 2021: Wisconsin’s 36 Most Influential Latino Leaders.

  • Areli Estrada (MS ‘21) is executive director of Affordable Dental Care, a Madison-based nonprofit that provides dentistry services for the underserved and underinsured. She previously worked as Green Bay regional director for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, was a student support coordinator at Madison College, and has mentored UW undergraduate students in the Posse scholarship program. A first-generation college graduate, she earned her bachelor’s degree in human development from the UW–Green Bay and her master’s degree in community development from UW–Madison.
  • Mario García Sierra is the senior customer engagement and community development manager at Madison Gas and Electric. Originally from Guatemala, García Sierra served as the board president for Centro Hispano of Dane County from 2017-19, and worked at Centro from 2008-12 as director of programs. He studied Agriculture and Applied Economics at UW–Madison.
  • Cristhabel Martinez (‘21, MSW x22) is a grad student in the School of Social Work and executive director of Dreamers of Wisconsin, an organization founded to support students living in the U.S. without documentation, which recently expanded its reach statewide. Martinez earned her bachelor’s degree in social work with certificates in criminal justice, educational policy, and global health in 2021. She has been an AVID tutor with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and volunteered as a children’s advocate with DAIS, intake volunteer at Dodge County Jail and Circle of Support volunteer with JustDane.
  • Aissa Olivarez (JD ‘16) is the managing attorney at the Community Immigration Law Center in Madison, which strives to ensure dignity and access to justice for people — especially those facing deportation — by providing legal representation and consultation. While earning her law degree at the Law School, Olivarez participated in the Immigrant Justice Clinic and the Defenders Project. She was awarded the Belle Case La Follette Award by the Wisconsin Law Foundation in 2018 for her work with underserved communities.
  • Justin Rivas (‘05, MIPA ‘09) leads community health initiatives for the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, aiming to improve health outcomes and advance health equity. He oversees Community Health Needs Assessment planning and Health Compass Milwaukee, supports the company’s Racial and Health Equity Council, and serves as the program director for the Milwaukee Enrollment Network. He previously worked at County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration of the UW Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rivas earned his bachelor’s degree from UW in 2005 and his master’s in international public affairs in 2009 from the La Follette School at UW–Madison.
  • Victor Villacrez (‘87) has worked at Hovde Properties since 2010, most recently as the company’s commercial and development manager. In November 2021 he was named as the new board chair of the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce. Villacrez has been heavily involved in Madison’s Latino community for decades and previously served as board chair for Centro Hispano of Dane County. He started the Madison Cusco Sister City Project and formed Mundo Esperanza, a nonprofit with a mission to honor the spiritual principles, practices and beliefs of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Villacrez earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UW in 1987.