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Models for Diaspora Engagement with Puerto Rico

Models for Diaspora Engagement with Puerto Rico
Moderator:  Frances Colón, Board Member, Grupo Guayacán Inc, (Guaynabo, PR)
Héctor J. Figueroa, President, 32BJ SEIU and Vamos por PR (NY, NY)
Natascha Otero-Santiago, Founder, Parranda Puerto Rico (Miami, Fl)
Isabel Rullian, Managing Director, conPRmetidos (San Juan, PR)
Raul Russi, Chief Executive Officer, Acacia Network, Inc. (Bronx, NY)

Frances Colón

Héctor J. Figueroa

Natascha Otero-Santiago


Isabel Rullian 

Raul Russi


Frances Colón, was selected to be a Member of the Board of Directors at of Grupo Guayacán Inc. Frances is a woman of many talents, in addition to her role as Membership Chair in UPRAA’s Board of Directors, she is also the Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State at the U.S. Department of State, founding board member of Cenadores PR. She is also a Puerto Rican scientist, advocate, policy leader. We congratulate Frances on her new role! About Dr. Frances Colón: Frances is the Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State at the U.S. Department of State where she promotes integration of science and technology into foreign policy dialogues; global advancement of women in science; and innovation as a tool for economic growth around the world. In her role as a science diplomat, Frances has overseen the creation of the Networks of Diasporas in Engineering and Science and coordinated climate change policy for the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas announced by President Obama. Her first steps in diplomacy were in the Muslim world, enhancing K-12 science and math education cooperation.

Héctor J. Figueroa was elected President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, the largest property services union in the country, in 2012. 32BJ represents more than 163,000 property service workers – window cleaners, superintendents, doormen, maintenance workers, cleaners, porters and security officers – in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Héctor Figueroa was born into the labor movement in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where his parents, as teachers, were part of a long struggle to win a union at work. His mother and father went on strike in 1974, but it wasn’t until 24 years later that the teachers won collective bargaining rights with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). At the time, Hector served as SEIU’s Organizing Director for Puerto Rico. More...

Natascha Otero-Santiago is a Public Relations professional with over 20 years’ experience in the US Hispanic market. In her role as principal of NOS-Communications, she helps small businesses and Forbes 500 companies create public relations and social media campaigns, as well as community events. Natascha is the founder of Parranda Puerto Rico, an organization whose mission is to unite and help the Puerto Rican diaspora in the US and create connections with the population in Puerto Rico. Among her achievements are being chosen by LATISM in 2016 & 2015 as a Top Digital Influencer; named by the Huffington Post as one of the world’s leading Social Media & Inspirational Leadership; and to have been featured in Forbes as A Puerto Rican Citizen Goes to Washington – for her work with the Puerto Rican vote during the 2012 elections. Most recently she was honored as a 2016 “Mujer Legendaria” by Ford Motor Company. More...

Isabel Rullán is a Co-Founder & Managing Director of ConPRmetidos, a social enterprise focused on developing and implementing innovate public-private partnerships (PPPs) that advance the economic development of Puerto Rico. Their main Initiative is Puerto Rico Global - the only Puerto Rican worldwide network that promotes the Island’s economy by exchanging knowledge and connections. Prior to ConPRmetidos she worked as the Unit Production Manager of the documentary Mala Mala. A film about the transgender community in Puerto Rico, that later premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Raul Russi is the Chief Executive Officer of Acacia Network, Inc. As such, he provides executive management of the day to day operations for the largest Puerto Rican-founded organization in New York. Raul Russi was born in Patillas, Puerto Rico and relocated to Buffalo New York with his family at an early age. In 1996, Mr. Russi was appointed Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, having served as Chairman of the NYS Parole Board since 1990, as well as the first Latino sheriff of the City of New York. In 1973, Mr. Russi created the Consortium of Spanish Speaking Organizations, the first full service agency headed by a Latino in Buffalo, followed by the founding of the Western New York Hispanic and Friends Civic Association. Mr. Russi also provided critical leadership by creating a task force that led to the formation of the first residential substance abuse treatment facility in Western New York known as Horizon Village, now operated by Horizon Human Services.