Esmeralda Sierra, a SUNY Buffalo State graduate with a Master's in Public Administration, has served for the past several years as the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York, Inc. Chief Financial Officer. Her activism in the community includes VOICE-Buffalo Inc., Community Access Services, and the Near East & West Side Task Force. She was an adult advisor and teacher at Holy Cross R.C. Church, where she held positions as president and secretary of the Parish Council.
She was chair of the Cultural Competency Workgroup for the Health Equity Coalition for P2 Collaborative of WNY Inc., Co-chair of public relations for the Association of Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation; a member of the Erie County Caregiver Coalition, the Community Health Workers Network, the American Diabetes Association Diversity Committee, and the WNY Cancer Coalition. Esmeralda is a former board member of Hispanos Unidos de Buffalo, Vice-President of the Puerto Rican & Hispanic Day Parade of WNY, Inc., and Pageant Coordinator of the Miss Borinquen of WNY Leadership Program.
Maritza Vega has been employed by Kaleida Health for 20 years. She is a Financial Counselor Bilingual Facilitated Enroller and has been involved in many community advocacy groups, such as Immigration Reform for America, The Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade of WNY Inc., where she served as the Financial Officer, Hispanic & Friends Civic Association, Inc., where she was the Treasurer, and Grassroots, Inc.
She is a participating member of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Diversity Council, Small Business Administration (SBA) SCORE, Erie County Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) advisory board, and the Erie County commission of the Status of Women (ECCSW) advisory board.
Maritza enjoys family, heritage and has a passion for the arts, civic engagement and bike riding. She established a bicycle group, Urban Bike Riders (UBR), in June 2015, to encourage health and wellness in the community. She retired as an entrepreneur owner of the VP Home Improvement Contracting, LLC. construction company. Her favorite quote is "Life is for living; Love is for giving."
Elda Pichardo, a native of Buffalo, NY, is second generation of Dominican and Nicaraguan descent and is very proud of her heritage. A SUNY-Buffalo State graduate with honors, she holds a Master's in Public Administration, and has been inducted in the Pi Alpha Alpha (PAA), National Honor Society. Elda is an employee at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and volunteers for community organizations including Citizen Action, PUSH Buffalo, and The Belle Center.
Elda's many awards include the Sylvia Rodriguez Scholarship from the HWL, the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Community Award, the Frederick Howe Outstanding Student Volunteer Award, the Gabriel A. Rodriguez American Legion Post Award, and the President's Award from the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York for leadership. During the pandemic Elda worked with local organizations that needed facemasks, hand sanitizers, or other assistance. She enjoys working with Local Hispanic Senior Veterans and has coordinated events through the council. Elda dedicates and serves as a church Usher at Holy Cross Catholic Church and is the secretary of the Holy Cross Parish Parochial Council.
It is her belief that perseverance is the key to success and to accomplishing one's dreams. Her passion is to encourage youth programs within HHC to embrace ethnicity, education, and create leaders.
Karoll Melendez was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Over 20 years ago, she moved to Buffalo with her husband and sons. Wanting her family to remember their roots, she always spoke Spanish at home so that her children would know their native language. She loves the music, food and everything that represents Hispanic culture.
Employed by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Karoll has been working as an Administrative Coordinator for 23 years. In 2016, she earned a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration; in 2020 she graduated with a Master's degree in Business Management.
Karoll believes that a positive attitude is key to achieving life goals. She is dedicated to helping young people and adults in the Hispanic community to fulfill their potential and maintain pride in Hispanic heritage and culture.
Casimiro D. Rodriguez Sr.
President Emeritus / Founder
Casimiro was born and raised in WNY. He is a dedicated advocate of education, health, social, and economic equality for Buffalo's Latino community. He earned a BA in American Government from University at Buffalo and also studied management from the General Motors Institute. After 34 years of dutiful service, he retired from GM.
The recipient of several outstanding honors and awards, Casimiro has spearheaded many successful fundraising campaigns for the benefit of the Hispanic community. Passionate about social progress, he has served on boards of important professional, health, civic, cultural agencies, and institutions too numerous to mention.
Jose L. Perez
Jose Luis Perez was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, where he obtained his first university degree in Computer Information Systems. He arrived in Buffalo, NY in July, 2000, where he became a Spanish and computer teacher in various high schools, colleges, and universities. These include Buffalo State College, University at Buffalo, Niagara County Community College, Canisius High School, Tapestry Charter School, Buffalo Public Schools, and Erie 2 Chautauqua - Cattaraugus BOCES.
In January 2016, he continued his education at the University at Buffalo in the PhD Program of Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning.
Jose Luis firmly believes that social and academic education can improve communities. With this in mind, he has been initiating programs in STEM to engage young people and help them develop interests in science and technology.
Ricardo Saeb was born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, where he began his music studies and his community service work. As a classical guitarist, Ricardo has performed internationally in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and the US. He obtained a PhD in Music Performance from the University of Kentucky. In 2018, he moved to Buffalo.
Ricardo believes in the importance of the arts for the betterment of society and is committed to promoting social progress through music, particularly through the guitar.
John Sanabria, of Spanish ancestry, was born and raised in WNY. He has dedicated himself to community service in organizations including Puerto Rican American Community Association [PRACA], currently known as "Pucho". He is a former board member of the United Way of Buffalo, Girls and Boys Club, the John F. Beecher Clubhouse, and the City of Buffalo Youth Board. He helped to merge the Puerto Rican Chicano Committee, PRACA, to what today is Hispanics United of Buffalo. With a spirit of passion for sports and community youth, he was a co-founder of the Roberto Clemente Baseball League, Latin American Youth Organization, serving Buffalo's inner city youth.
He retired from General Motors in 2007 after 35 years of service, where he was involved with the UAW International Labor Force from 1996 - 2006. John lives in North Buffalo with his wife Sarah De Leon and their two children John Jr. and Elena.
Arnold N. Zelman, Esq.
Arnold Zelman, Esq., an attorney, is of Counsel with Barclay & Damon, LLP which has its offices in Buffalo, and several other major cities in New York. He practices in the areas of business law, counseling, tax and estate planning, and has been active in many civic organizations.