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Graphic: AL DÍA News.
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Meet the 2021 AL DÍA Women of Merit Honorees

AL DÍA will be honoring 15 groundbreaking women for their impact in five industries: corporate, education, entrepreneurship, non-profit and public service. 

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May 27th, 2022

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On March 31, AL DÍA will end Women's History Month with a celebration of esteemed women who are breaking barriers and emerging in leadership positions across the nation with the AL DÍA Women of Merit virtual event.

After an unprecedented number of nominations of inspiration and exceptional women, 15 were selected for their impact within their respective industries.

These 15 women will be honorees at the upcoming event. The women were chosen across five different industries: corporate, education, entrepreneurship, nonprofit and public service. In addition, one woman will be honored as the Emerging Leader Award recipient.

AL DÍA is excited to announce the honorees of the 2021 AL DÍA Women of Merit.

Corporate

Carmen Canales

Carmen Canales is the Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer at Novant Health. She joined Novant in April 2020, amid a global pandemic to serve team members across the front lines. She has more than two decades of experience bringing innovation to the Human Resources space, transforming and advancing organizations, and, most importantly, the people who comprise them. 

Prior to Novant, Canales was the Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer at Wake Forest University for nearly nine years. Before that, she served as Chief Talent Officer at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP over four years, and has also had roles as Vice President & Senior Human Resources Business Partner at Wells Fargo and Manager of Human Resources at Pepsi-Cola.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and Spanish from Michigan State University, as well as a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations from Michigan State University. 

Sulma Dalessio

Sulma Dalessio is the Director of Field & Meter Maintenance at PECO, an Exelon Company. She has been with the company since 2007, starting as a Finance Intern while she was a student at Drexel University. 

In her current role, Dalessio leads the Field & Meter Services Organization, which includes managing the daily operation, as well as setting up the strategic direction to improve PECO’s Electric and Gas meters performance and Revenue Protection Programs. She currently manages a team of more than 80 employees.

In addition to her role at PECO and in business, Dalessio has also become a community leader to the Philadelphia community at-large, and the Latinx community in Philadelphia. She sits on the Board of Directors at Taller Puertorriqueño, which has allowed her to create strong ties in the Philadelphia Latinx community. She is a hands-on board member and brings her corporate experience to the organization through project management and strategy development. 

Dalessio emigrated from Colombia to Philadelphia in 2005 to pursue her MBA at Drexel, where she later earned a master’s degree in accounting and finance in 2007.

Miriam Enriquez

Miriam Enriquez serves as an Assistant Deputy General Counsel in the compliance and ethics function at Comcast Cable. Her focus is building a culture of ethical business conduct. She conducts and directs internal investigations of potential violations of laws, regulations, policies and the company’s Code of Conduct. Enriquez also designs and implements policies and procedures to assure compliance. In an effort to drive the company’s role as a responsible corporate citizen and promote civic participation by its customers, Enriquez was part of a team that conceived of and helped implement an initiative to deliver 2020 voter education information to viewers using the voice feature on the company’s remote control. 

Prior to joining Comcast, Enriquez served as Mayor Jim Kenney's Director of Immigrant Affairs for the City of Philadelphia. In that role, she advocated for immigrants’ rights, expanded the city’s citizenship initiatives, language access program, workforce development and cultural programs, and helped launch the municipal ID and deportation defense programs. She also spearheaded the strategic advocacy campaign and legislative effort to make the Office of Immigrant Affairs a permanent part of Philadelphia's municipal landscape by amending the City’s Home Rule Charter. 

Before that, she worked as City Councilman-at-Large Dennis M. O’Brien’s Director of Legislation and Policy, where she was instrumental in crafting and passing landmark legislation to protect immigration services consumers in the City. Prior to that, Enriquez served as an Assistant District Attorney at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office where she advocated for countless victims and successfully prosecuted thousands of misdemeanor and felony cases, impacting every city neighborhood. Enriquez was a prosecutor in the Gun Violence Task Force, where she fought tirelessly against gun trafficking in Philadelphia. 

Enriquez also serves as a lecturer of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she teaches professional responsibility in public interest practice. 

Education

Alexandra Colón-Rodriguez

Alexandra Colón-Rodriguez is a Postdoctoral Scientist & Science Communication Faculty Training Program Director at University of California, Davis.

Rodriguez's research is focused on characterizing changes in the emotional center of the brain, the amygdala, in offspring of single parents. She also developed the Science Communication Faculty Training Program at UC Davis, of which she is the director. 

Rodriguez was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology at Universidad Ana G. Méndez - Recinto de Carolina. She also earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Environmental Toxicology from Michigan State University.

Judy Cruz-Ransom

Judy Cruz-Ransom is the Associate Director at the Office for Child & Youth Protection and Visiting Lecturer Diversity Fellow at the Community College of Philadelphia. 

She is also an adjunct professor at Holy Family University. 

Cruz-Ransom has been an advocate for victims and survivors of crime for over 20 years and has brought her advocacy and expertise in the field of victimology and justice as a college professor for more than a decade. 

Cruz-Ransom has a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice & sociology from La Salle University, and a master of science degree in criminology from Saint Joseph’s University.

Nancy M. Cubano

Nancy M. Cubano is a 7th grade SLA & Spanish FLES Teacher at Independence Charter School.

Her goal and mission is to prepare students with the academic skills, intellectual habits, and character traits that are necessary for success in high school, college, and the competitive world beyond. In pursuing this mission, she aims to serve her community in Philadelphia as a whole by educating students who will make a difference in our community and the world.

Prior to coming to Independence Charter School in Philadelphia, Cubano taught as a elementary school Spanish teacher in Harrisburg for 13 years, and in Gettysburg, where she became passionate about her community and her teaching. She also volunteered as an English tutor and advocated for the Gettysburg area’s migrant-workers.

Cubano is a native of Puerto Rico. She was born in Arecibo, and grew up in the small town of Utuado where she lived with her family. She is also a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico and Shippensburg University.

Entrepreneurship

Patrice Banks

Patrice Banks is the Founder of Girls Auto Clinic (GAC). As the Founder of Girls Auto Clinic in 2013, Patrice Banks is bringing a fresh perspective to the status quo by inspiring women to enter into the male-dominated automotive industry. Frustrated with lack of resources educating women on car care and her inability to find a female mechanic in the Philadelphia area, she enrolled in automotive technology school to learn how to work on cars.

GAC offers automotive buying and repair resources, products, and services based on trust, education, inclusion, and empowerment.

Her mission with Girl Auto Clinic was to create a place she wanted to bring her car for repair and maintenance. She has since made it her mission to educate and empower women through their cars.

Prior to establishing GAC, Patrice worked for more than 12 years as an engineer, manager, and leader at DuPont, a science and technology company.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Materials Engineering from Lehigh University, and an Automotive Technology Diploma from Delaware Technical Community College.

Conchie Fernandez

Conchie Fernandez is the Owner & Founder of CF Creative, a multicultural communications and consulting firm that provides business writing and business development mentorship exclusively for small, Hispanic and minority owned companies.

Since 2014, Fernandez and CF Creative have worked with clients in the public and private spaces, enhancing their communication by providing web and social content; response to RFX, bids and proposals; introduction letters and corporate literature that showcases minority owned firms' output and services, helping them to attract awards, recognition, and revenue.

CF Creative's proposal writing has awarded almost $1 billion in contracts for clients in the Fortune 1000 to 500 space. Fernandez and CF Creative further help Hispanic women entrepreneurs through LatinaEmprende, business mentorship and scaling workshops and speaking opportunities which has been featured on People Magazine en Español, People en Español's Poderosas Pro entrepreneurial workshops in Miami and virtually, and in international collaborations with China, Belgium and the Dominican Republic.

Nina Guzman

Nina Guzman is the Founder & Executive Director of Alianzas de Phoenixville. She created Alianzas in 2010 to meet the needs of the growing Latino and Hispanic immigrant community in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. The non-profit organization has expanded to help immigrants from more than 18 different countries in the wider area of southern Chester County.

Through Guzman's leadership, Alianzas works closely with the Phoenixville Area School District and local parents to improve communication and cooperation between home and school and to ensure student success. She has built strong relationships among Alianzas, Phoenixville Hospital, and The Clinic (a local free health care center for those with no or inadequate health insurance) to help support the physical and mental health of the community, and guides Alianzas' work with local food banks and local farmers to make fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to those in need.

In addition to her work with Alianzas, Guzman has also initiated programs to provide English as a second language instruction and tutoring for students, and sponsors a women’s support and sewing group. She also provides a Youth in Action group that offers opportunities for youth to receive computer instruction and engage in civic activities helping to build leadership skills.

She is also a member of the Chester County Women's Commission representing equity for women in the community.

Nonprofit

Maria del Carmen Diaz

Maria del Carmen Diaz is a leading member of Make the Road PA & Philadelphia's Domestic Workers Alliance. She has worked as a house cleaner, nanny and home care worker. Labor abuses she endured in these jobs made her want to advocate for changes to labor standards and enforcement. She gave several testimonies at City Hall in order to have City Council pass a Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2019.

After that, she worked to make sure that employee contracts would be available in multiple languages and continued to organize workshops to inform other domestic workers about their rights. Diaz is part of monthly workshops with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and they discuss strategies to have a national Bill of Rights pass in Congress.

Every week she leads presentations for immigrants in the local workforce so that they do not fear telling authorities about labor abuses they've faced.

With Make the Road PA, she is part of leadership committee with a particular passion about the Shut Down Berks campaign and the initiative for PA to provide undocumented immigrants with a driver's license.

In more recent months, her main priority in these meetings is to share information about where people can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as she does not want members of the community to think that their legal status will make them ineligible for the vaccine.

Diaz is originally from Mexico and has been living in Philadelphia for 25 years.

Ileana Helwig

Ileana Helwig is the Chief Corporate Officer at Children's Crisis Treatment Center (CCTC), a role she's held since 2010. She has been with the agency since 1997. She joined the agency's management team, where she built the Behavioral Health and Rehabilitation Services (BHRS) department. She also led the creation of CCTC’s Targeted Case Management, Family-Based, Summer Therapeutic Enrichment Program and all of CCTC’s School-Based programs.

Helwig’s early career was defined by her work as a bilingual case manager in North Philadelphia, which has heavily influenced her role as an advocate for the people she serves. She has represented CCTC in the children’s services community through participation with the Philadelphia Alliance and the Philadelphia Coalition.

In addition to her roles at CCTC, she also serves on the Board of Directors of Taller Puertorriqueño.

Helwig was born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico and came to Philadelphia to attend college at Temple University. She received her Master’s in Human Services-Psychology from La Salle University.

Siria Rivera

Siria Rivera is the Executive Director at Providence Center. She has more than a decade of experience in community-based service delivery and management in diverse populations, both at a regional and national level.

Rivera's passion for youth development, multi-generational services and advocacy on behalf of families in low-income communities is derived from her personal experiences.

As a former high school dropout, she understands the importance of taking alternative routes and the power of enabling youth to see themselves beyond their current circumstances.

Her role at Providence Center has allowed her to give back to the community which is just blocks away from where she was born. 

Prior to joining Providence Center, Rivera held roles as Director of Delivery Service at Better Tomorrows, Director at Diversified Delivery Services and Operations Manager at City Invincible Charter School.

Rivera obtained a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, studied Bilingual and Bicultural Studies at LaSalle University and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish from Rutgers University.

Public Service

Kelli McIntyre

Kelli McIntyre is the Health Justice & Livability Projects Manager at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in the Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention Division. Through her work, she pushes the city to pursue policies that advance health justice, and to dismantle racist and unjust systems that impact public health.

She is committed to creating a more livable city where all people have the right to an environment where they grow and thrive to meet their full potential.

McIntyre was selected as an inaugural member of the Bloomberg Fellows program at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and recently completed her Master's in Public Health.

She has worked to promote joyful movement by co-founding WeWalkPHL, the community-led walking group program throughout a dozen Philadelphia parks. She also serves as Communications Associate for America Walks, where she helps to advance safe, equitable, accessible, and enjoyable places to walk and move by giving people and communities the resources to effectively advocate for change.

Dr. Marilyn Martinez

Dr. Marilyn Martinez is the Early Intervention Quality Manager at Greater Philadelphia Health Action, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center. In her role, she manages the Medical Case Management and Community Health Navigator departments, and supports the Infections Disease Program. Dr. Martinez's engagement to her work involves her actively assisting and motivating staff, and consistently identifying ways to help Black and Brown communities to thrive.

Her care and concern for her community spans across her lifetime, and has been demonstrated in her work as a founder of Instituto Duartiano de Filadelfia, Filadelfia Dominican Grocers Association, and the Dominican Annual Parade.

She has also shown a dedication to her community through her volunteer work with various organizations, including Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (EPOP) which engaged in the removal of vandalized cars and development of North Philadelphia during the Mayor Street Administration, ASPIRA Association, and Puerto Rican Mass. Dr. Martinez is also an active board member of Prospanica Philadelphia Chapter, which hosts a variety of programming and professional development for Hispanic professionals, and has been a contributor to mental health programming during the current pandemic.

Brunilda "Cookie" Sanchez, RN, BSN

Brunilda "Cookie" Sanchez, RN, BSN, is the Clinical Manager at BAYADA Home Health Care. 

Sanchez has a strong passion for empowering her community and ensuring their good health in a broken system. She constantly volunteers for her community in healthcare related events that offer education and free services to the underrepresented Latino community, and empowers nurses and student nurses by actively reaching out to them to bring them on board to the nursing profession and advance their career in the nursing profession.

She has served as President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, which has enabled her to connect with various networks to form relationships with others that provided NAHN the opportunity to connect with a larger amount of the public. This includes finding funding for scholarships to Hispanic nursing students, and the organization of events and distribution of nursing services to these events and those who reach out to us for help, such as blood pressure screenings, education of the community events that will help teach them proper care of themselves and their families to break the chain of disproportionate healthcare.

Emerging Leader Award

Mariah Tiana Matias

Mariah Tiana Matias is a first-generation Master's student at Lehigh University. She recently graduated from Lehigh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Environment Science, and conducted wildlife habitat research in Dr. Joan Ramage’s Remote Sensing Lab.

She is focusing on eventually earning a Ph.D. in a discipline focused on the conservation and greater understanding of wildlife.

Matias has a strong interest in saving our planet Earth and protecting its wildlife. She is also interested in being a sponsor for young Black and Brown women looking to enter the field of Earth and Environmental Science. She is an example of the positive demographic change at Lehigh University’s Earth and Environmental Science Department.

Born and raised in the inner city of Philadelphia, she loved animals and liked playing outside, realizing that she could make a career playing outside.

Matias is a graduate of Community Academy of Philadelphia, where she served as a member of the Board of Directors of One Bright Ray’s Community High School and was also a member of her high school’s basketball team.

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