Meet our Team | Conozca Nuestro Equipo
Ms. Rivera is a veteran nonprofit executive, community activist, educator, and lifelong resident of Milwaukee’s near South side.
For more than 25 years she has provided strategic and operational leadership across several communities and organizations including: United Community Center, SER Jobs for Progress, Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, United Cerebral Palsy of SEW, Girls Scouts of Milwaukee Area, Voces de la Frontera, etc. In 2008, she opened a consulting firm named Xecutiva to provide executive level consulting and services to organizations and professionals. She has also taught preschool, alternative education, adult basic education, and undergraduate and graduate courses. It is this diverse range of deliberately crafted experiences that she says, “has her committed to a holistic approach and unity in and across community.”
She was a community activist early on in her teen years including starting a youth council at United Community Center where she was an AODA peer counselor. She trained at the Gamaliel Foundation in Chicago, IL, when hired by The Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee (HTFM) to organize single mothers and volunteers at food pantries. Although she makes clear she was the novice and youngest organizer, HTFM’s efforts spun off what we now know as MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope). Her involvement in community issues, working to engage others in the political process, and political advising has remained consistent over the years. Her efforts include founding The Lula Project, a Latina Research and Leadership Institute; Campaign Manager for Judge Phil Chavez, who was an unknown candidate in an upset election and the first Latino in that position; and establishing the Latino Elected Officials group. In terms of the Latino population that SOC serves, her reflection was “God created me a Latina and gave me to a family in the inner-city, it is an indication to me that I will always have a responsibility to the things that I am.”
Among her educational and training achievements, she holds a certificate in organizing; a certificate in Bible studies; graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in Community Education; has a Master’s degree in Administrative Leadership where she was on fellows; and has entered the final stages of her Ph. D. in Adult and Continuing Education, with a minor in higher education, and a certificate in Teaching and Learning (focused on online learning) where she also has been a continuous fellow. Her dissertation research is focused on Latina leadership. She is a recognized beginning scholar including having her work published, presented and awarded. “Education is a cornerstone, flint stone and capstone to many impoverished and marginalized people.” is what she said about helping others learn about community development.
Like many families, her grandparents arrived here in response to intense labor recruitment during the industrial boom. They worked long and dangerous hours in factories and her grandmother lost much of one arm in a tannery. This is where she said she learned her work ethic and concern for workers. Her mother purchased a humble home in Walker’s Point and worked as an educator at the Council for the Spanish Speaking’s Guadalupe Head Start Program. She grew up in the shadows of the Rockwell Clock Tower among the children of the other Polish, Irish, German, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other immigrant’s grandchildren. She purchased her own home on Historic Layton Boulevard more than a quarter of a century ago where she continues to live. She says her personal conviction is to “live where you lead.”
Ms. Rivera responded to the announcement with, “It is an honor to come along side my community as we move forward to realize our hopes and address our hardships. I am confident that we will be able to contribute to a thriving South Side and a stronger Greater Milwaukee by building leadership, unity, and engagement among SOC residents and in all sectors of our neighborhoods.”
Organizers | Organizadores
Maria Guadalupe Perea-Hernandez
Youth Program Coordinator
Maria was born and raised in the Southside of Milwaukee. Growing up she volunteered in several organizations that helped empower residents of Milwaukee. Maria was also blessed with the opportunity to volunteer in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Spain. These experiences contributed to her decision of obtaining a B.A in International Relations, Spanish, and a Peace-building Certificate from Mount Mary University.
Maria wants to make a difference in the world, and she wants to start in Milwaukee – her home. That is why she is happy to be a part of SOC as the NSP 16 Community Organizer, and helping with other areas as needed.
In her free time, Maria likes to spend time with her family, dance, cook, and photography. She also enjoys reading and learning how to live a more holistic lifestyle.
Andrea Rodriguez is SOC’s Leadership Coordinator and coordinates our GOLD (Grassroots Organizing Leadership Development) Institute for residents on the Southside. Drea also coordinates SOC’s interns and volunteers and is in charge of community engagement on the Southside for the Benedict Center’s Diversion Project. Drea also coordinates SOC’s annual Retroball event and SOC’s staff retreat. Drea is a lifelong resident and educator in Milwaukee. She has been active in Milwaukee community organizing for over 20 years and loves helping residents with strategic action planning and community engagement.
NSP 15 Organizer
Program and Civic Engagement Manager
As Civic Engagement Manager, Gabe’s strategy to build the political power & civic engagement of the Southside is to listen to, learn from, and work alongside the incredible leaders & residents that live here. Gabe was raised on Milwaukee’s South Side and is a proud product of MPS, graduating from Rufus King. From early experiences like growing up with people from all sorts of backgrounds and joining Voces de la Frontera’s Youth Empowered in the Struggle, she gained a deeper understanding of Milwaukee’s diverse communities and the challenges they face. This fueled her desire to advance social justice and advocate for marginalized communities.
After graduating college with a B.A. in Economics and Sociology, Gabe joined the Peace Corps and spent four years in the Dominican Republic working in Community Development. She collaborated with community leaders to implement initiatives that would empower and build the entrepreneurial capacity of community members. She is happy to be back in Milwaukee serving the Southside.
NSP 16 Organizer
Civic Engagement Lead
Carlos Schmitt is our Data and Canvassing Coordinator. He supervises a team of both youth and adult canvassers that are responsible for engaging residents in Milwaukee’s near Southside neighborhoods.
Before becoming Data and Canvassing Coordinator at SOC, Carlos devoted much of his professional time to Southside neighborhoods, where he owned an art gallery and studio called Catalyst, once located on the corner of 6th and Pierce Streets. In addition, Carlos managed and grew the community engagement footprint for the Southside territory with the FSET program where he partnered with many Southside organizations to provide employment training and job development. Carlos has also volunteered time and resources to non-profits located on the Southside.
Other interesting things to know about Carlos: He graduated from MIAD in 1993 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Minor in Printmaking. He is a practicing Artist creating paintings, drawings, printmaking and photography that are mostly inspired by his early years in Guatemala City and social justice. He was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and grew up in the “nitty-gritty” neighborhood of Zona 8. He went to School at Liceo Salesiano until the age of 9, moving to the US in 1979. He also enjoys riding bicycles, motorcycles, and spending time outdoors playing in the snow with his family and their dog.
Communications & Digital Manager
Marisol is a graphic designer, social media manager, and producer of SOC’s “3 o’clock with SOC!” live online community forum. Aside from her professional work she enjoys using her graphics abilities to help people who would otherwise not consider or afford hiring an expensive agency to help them with their graphics and printing needs. Outside of work she is a wife, mom, spiritual seeker, and doughnut lover. She enjoys a good read, good food, and Milwaukee summer festivities. You can find Marisol under her username ‘solefekt’ on most social media platforms.
Public Health & Forum Coordinator
Marlene Zahran is SOC’s Covid-19 Project Coordinator and helps with other relevant tasks. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She also earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor specializing in behavioral health and health education. Due to her experience as a Public Ally, she hopes to achieve equity, and empower populations by breaking down barriers in Milwaukee. In her free time she enjoys creating art, baking, and traveling.
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