Spring 2017

Yiliam Baez Medero was born in Santa Clara, Cuba in 1986. At nine years old, her parents divorced, and she stayed with her mother and brother in Santa Clara until she completed high school. Then, in 2004, she and her father left Cuba and were placed in Kansas City, Missouri through a refugee resettlement program. Mrs. Baez Medero has since married, and lives in Raytown, Missouri with her husband and their dog. She works full-time for UMKC, and attends Penn Valley Community College part-time. She is working towards completing the Spanish Language Medical Interpreter program, and hopes to practice language interpretation in Kansas City once she graduates.

John Fierro A native of Kansas City, he has been an important civic leader in the Latinx and Kansas City community. Fierro is currently the President and CEO of the Mattie Rhodes Center. Fierro is also a member of the KCMO Board of Education and has served on the board of KCMO Parks.

Alisha Gambino A lifelong resident of Northeast Kansas City, she currently serves as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Services at the Mattie Rhodes Center.

Ed Mendez  Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Mendez is a former teacher and the current principal at Alta Vista Charter School.  An activist educator, Mendez has served the Kansas City community through organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), among others.

Freda Mendez Smith was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1951, and moved to Kansas City, Missouri at 17 to attend Kansas City Business College. She lived with her aunt and two of 14 cousins on Kansas City’s West Side at 2116 Holly. She calls herself “Chicana,” and has been active for more than 30 years in the Kansas CIty community with organizations like IMAGE, MANA, and  Hispanic Productions, a cable access channel on American Cablevision. Mrs. Mendez Smith married and had two children. When she turned 30, she went back to school at Penn Valley and UMKC to study sociology.

Jenny Mendez Born and raised in Kansas City, Mendez is currently the Director of Cultural Arts at Mattie Rhodes Center, where she has been involved for 20 years. She is also an artist and has been very active in the Kansas City community.

Nubia Rede Born in Mexico and raised in Northeast Kansas City, Rede is an Alta Vista Charter School alumni and is currently a member of the Alta Vista staff as a bilingual receptionist.  She has also served as a linguist at a local health clinic.

Carlos Salazar was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1956, but his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri’s Ivanhoe neighborhood when he was in elementary school. His older brothers introduced him to the Chicano Movement, and encouraged him to stay active in the fight for civil rights for Latino Americans. His entire family participated in the nationwide consumer boycott of grapes and lettuce in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Community activism has been a hallmark of Mr. Salazar’s personal life and career. He is Vice President for Community Engagement for the Kansas City Greater Area United Way. He had a long, successful career with the Kansas City Power and Light Company, and established the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation to encourage economic investment in Kansas City’s West Side neighborhoods.


Spring 2018

Theresa Moreno was born in Kansas City, Missouri to Mexican parents from Durango, Mexico. Currently, she works for Kansas State University for Research and Extension, where she serves as a nutritionist. As a nutritionist, she works with minoritized families to support their nutritional habits, and assures they are making the correct choices when it comes to food decisions. Throughout her life, Moreno was always very involved with the community. She was an avid dancer, and participated in every fiesta with the Guadalupe Center for their summer dancing programs.

Lisa Reales was born in Kansas City, Kansas to a 1st generation Mexican-American mother. Although Lisa was born in Kansas City, Kansas, she spent a lot of time in the West Side neighborhood of Kansas City Missouri. She currently works as an educational sales person, with a focus on early childhood, where she designs more developmentally appropriate classrooms and curriculum children birth through 6 years. Lisa has been involved in the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she has worked with the chamber as a management business director recruiting all types of businesses, not just Latinx but also major corporations to join and support the chamber in order to create more scholarships and opportunities for the Latinx youth.

Luis Portillo was born in Parral, Chihuahua and came to Kansas City when he was nine months old. He studied music and graduated from the music conservatory at UMKC in 1996. He has been teaching music in multiple states since the and he is currently the music director at Center middle school. Luis also plays music outside of work and performs with close friends in a band called Trio Aztlan. He plays the saxophone, guitar and sings.

David Cunningham was born in Elkton, Kentucky in 1981. He studied music at Bowling Green college and majored in music education. He moved to Kansas City in 2006 and started teacher at Brookside charter school. He is currently the music director at Center elementary school. He currently the trumpet with three Latin bands. The bands he performs with is, Mundo Nuvo – salsa band, Maria the Mexican – Folk/rock and Trio Aztlan.