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Miami Dade College Students Once Again Chosen to Participate in the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University

Harvard L

MDC Students Selected for Harvard's Latino Leadership Initiative

Miami, May 24, 2013 - Five Miami Dade College (MDC) students will trade their swimsuits for school books this summer, as they head north to Massachusetts. This group of up-and-coming leaders will travel to Harvard to attend the prestigious Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI), to adopt skills that will help them both academically and professionally. They will then take what they’ve learned while at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and implement those projects in their own communities. The program takes place June 8 – 15.

Launched in 2010, LLI is a weeklong program that prepares students for the opportunities and challenges they will face in the coming decades. Harvard will welcome to campus 41 students who were chosen from a highly-selective application process. The LLI curriculum includes classes on public narrative, community organizing, negotiation, moral leadership, innovation, arts and activism, and public speaking. LLI participants will also have opportunities to build relationships with respected Latino mentors from the government, nonprofit, and business sectors.

This year, five of the 41 students selected, hail from MDC. They include:

Wendy Ruiz – A first-year student from Homestead Campus, Ruiz, a U.S. citizen born to undocumented parents, held several jobs to pay her out-of-state tuition. Instead of taking a back seat, she took her battle to the Florida courts, and won. A federal judge ruled Florida’s policy was in violation of equal protection laws under the Constitution. Today, Ruiz is studying biology, in hopes of pursuing a medical degree.

Shely Ward – Shely Ward arrived from her native Cuba four years ago, with no knowledge of the English language or the customs of the U.S. One of her first lessons was learning about the freedom to express thoughts without government reprisal – for which her father and grandfather paid for heavily with prison terms. An international relations major, Shely holds a 3.79 GPA and attends the North Campus. She looks forward to engaging the Hispanic population in social and political movements.

John Alvarez John Alvarez has dedicated his life to public service. He’s volunteered more than 4,200 hours for local, state, national and international non-profit organizations over the course of his lifetime. This Wolfson Campus student will be a recipient of President Obama’s Lifetime Call to Service award in July 2013. With a 3.74 GPA, Alvarez plans to pursue a degree in education, with the goal of eventually working at MDC as a full-time faculty member.

Marilyn Figueroa – Having been raised by a single mom and two older brothers, Bronx-born Marilyn Figueroa witnessed abuse, drugs, and the lack of higher education in her family. Instead of falling through the cracks, this Wolfson Campus student became involved in extra-curricular activities at MDC and in her community. Figueroa, who has a strong passion for education, is pursuing a degree in sociology.

Adrian Suarez – Adrian Suarez has a perfect 4.0 GPA and hails from Wolfson Campus. Majoring in English and upholding a commitment to public service, Suarez founded an after-school tutoring program for middle-school students needing assistance with reading, writing, and math. He plans to pursue a degree in law and aspires to serve as the voice of underrepresented individuals seeking educational and financial opportunities in the U.S.

Last year, the six Hispanic MDC students who attended the prestigious weeklong program founded 305 Rise, devoted to help minority students become better prepared for college.

Jessica Giraldo was among them.  "The Harvard LLI is a call to leadership. After I attended in 2011, I grew my own capacity for leadership and am well-versed in social change. This year I had the privilege of mentoring the 2012 cohort and have seen them take the 2011 experience to a whole other level. I have high hopes for the new group as it embarks on their journey and look forward to seeing them inspire and motivate the next class of leaders at MDC."

For more information on the Harvard Latino Initiative, visit

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Kai Hill, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

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