UPRAA recognizes distinguished alumni and Puerto Rican members of Congress

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During the Annual Holidays and Excellence Awards Reception held at the US Congress, UPRAA recognized a group of Distinguished Alumni and Puerto Rican members of the US Congress for their leadership and contributions to our community.  This exciting membership event, held on December 5th, in the Rayburn House Office Building, brought together a large group of UPRAA members, UPRAA friends, and leaders from the private sector. The event was graciously supported by Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who serves as Representative of the 3rd District of Ohio.


The 2017 UPRAA’s Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to Juan L. Negrón, UPR-Rio Piedras; Francheska Reyes, UPR-Mayaguez; Jomar I. Martínez, UPR-Mayaguez; Josué Rivera, UPR-Bayamon; Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, UPR-Mayaguez; Rosanna Torres, UPR-Rio Piedras; and Nairka Joe Treviño, UPR-Mayaguez.  UPRAA recognized these distinguished leaders for their exemplary achievements and triumphs as a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico. Their dedication to lead initiatives across federal and private agencies represents the best of our Puerto Rican young professionals and serves an example for others to emulate.

UPRAA also recognized the following distinguished members of Congress with the Excellence in Public Service Award for their untiring work in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts for Puerto Rico:  Hon. Jenniffer González-Colón, Hon. Luis V. Gutiérrez, Hon. Raúl Labrador, Hon. José E. Serrano, Hon. Darren Soto, and Hon. Nydia M. Velázquez.

UPRAA President, Mr. Jose O. Torres, and the Interim President of the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Darren Hillman, presented the above mentioned awards.  Dr. Hillman, the Rectors of the various campuses, and several senior leaders of the University honored the audience with their presence.  Dr Hillman, the guest speaker for the evening, addressed the audience with a solemn message to all alumni and friends to assist in the recovery efforts of our Alma Mater and to unite in establishing our Alma Mater as one of the premier institutions in the world.

During the event, Mrs. Laurie Buckhout, President and CEO of The Corvus Consulting Group, presented a generous donation of $5,000 to support a Scholarship Program for ROTC students at the University of Puerto Rico.  Mrs. Buckhout, a retired US Army Colonel, expressed her gratitude to the many Puerto Rican officers serving in our military.  She asked the University of Puerto Rico to continue to develop these great quality officers; future leaders of our nation.

UPRAA Board of Directors express the most sincere thanks to all the sponsors for the contributions and continued support received through the Year 2017

Hurricane Maria Relief Fund

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Just two days after Hurricane Maria entered through Puerto Rico destroying everything in its path, members of the diaspora have come together to find ways they could assist their friends and relatives. The American Red Cross has indicated that as generous as it may be to collect personal goods and donations, it becomes very challenging to transport individual boxes of goods and get it to the people that need it the most. Therefore, it is best to collect funds and provide it to local organizations that already have local ties with the most vulnerable populations and will ensure the money goes to the right people.

To this end, UPRAA has established a Disaster Relief Fund for Puerto Rico to offer all alumni and Friends Abroad an opportunity to donate.  All funds collected will be channeled to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration’s United for Puerto Rico relief efforts.

In an Island where people have lost their homes and entire communities have been displaced, any contribution you can make will help make the difference. Thanks for your donation.


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UPRAA closes the year recognizing its Founding Members!

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UPRAA Founding Members from left: Ms. Grace Dewan, Mr. Tomás Esterrich, Ms. Sara Clemente, Mr. Mario Acosta, Dr. Jacob Lozada, and Dr. Margarita Benítez. 

During a special celebration at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D,C., UPRAA celebrated its last event of the year with a well-deserved recognition of its founding members for their contributions and continued support to the development of our alumni organization and the educational goals of our Hispanic youth. UPRAA’s Vice-President, Jose O. Torres, welcomed all in attendance saying, “tonight we celebrate all our great accomplishments during this year and to recognize the founding members who had the vision to make something bigger than themselves, make a difference in the lives of our youth, and to give back as they once received.”

The group of 13 University of Puerto Rico graduates came together in 2003 with a vision to establish an organization in which University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area could converge in fraternal union to foster common interests and support charitable and scholarship programs. The founding members established an interim Board of Directors, completed the incorporation of the Association, and submitted the application for tax exemption, as prescribed by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. By November 2003, at a reception held at the Hall of the Americas at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, the President of the University of Puerto Rico and the UPRAA Interim Board of Directors, officially launched the Association led by its first President Dr. Jacob Lozada. “A dream come true; it feels like a well-anticipated class reunion,” Dr. Lozada commented.

Members of this exclusive group of professionals included Ms. Betty Paugh, Mr. Mario Acosta-Vélez, Dr. Margarita Benítez, Ms. Sara Clemente, Ms. Grace Dewan, Mr. Tomás Esterrich, Ms. Nalini Lamba-Nieves, Dr. Jacob Lozada, Mr. Adán Rodríguez-Arroyo, Mr. Armando Valdés-Prieto, Mr. José Vega, Mr. Javier Vélez-Arrocho, and Ms. Loida Velilla. The founding members continue to support the efforts of the organization and serve as mentors to current board members.

Robert Alvarez, Member of the Board of Directors, said that “UPRAA continues to offer programs geared to make a difference in the Hispanic Community” and invited all to be a part of it. As part of the Combined Federal Campaign, UPRAA provides all federal employees with the opportunity to provide charitable contributions to UPRAA’s Scholarship fund. UPRAA also highlighted Hispanic women during its Women Leadership Series for their distinguished careers and for serving as examples for our youth. UPRAA offers many sponsorship opportunities during all its events to include its primary fundraising event, the Hispanic Heritage Golf event at Andrews Air Force Base during the month of September.

Jose Torres announced that in 2017, UPRAA is launching its mentoring program to enhance our youth educational growth and to provide our members with ways to serve and opportunities to volunteer. UPRAA appreciates the support received throughout 2016 and asks you to join in our effort to make the difference in our youth lives in the upcoming year.

Click here to view pictures of the event!

Celebrating the contributions of our Puerto Rican diaspora to the Federal Government: An interview with Ileana Pérez Nieves

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

upraa_Out of the two million employees in the Federal Government, Hispanics represent only an 8.5% of the federal workforce, according to a report published by the Office of Personnel Management for fiscal year 2015. Despite the staggering numbers, there are Hispanics and Puerto Ricans in particular, who have become the epitome of federal service and excellence. Such is the case of Ileana Pérez Nieves, an UPRAA member and an alumna of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Mayaguez Campus.

Ileana Pérez Nieves works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), an intelligence agency under the United States Department of Defense. She serves as a program manager for the International Solutions Office, the office responsible for delivering systems connecting the National System for Geospatial-Intelligence and International Partners; which in turn facilitates collaborative support for national, defense and civil customers. Ileana has an impressive academic background: In addition to her Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from the UPR, she holds an Interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSE/MS) with specialization in Engineering Management and Leadership from Purdue University and the Thunderbird School of Management, respectively; and a Certificate in Global Management from the Thunderbird School of Management. Even more impressive is the fact that she completed all her graduate studies while being a single mother and working full-time. She is charismatic, intelligent and passionate about life and family.

Most recently, Ileana was highlighted by NGA during Hispanic Heritage Month for her outstanding compromise and contributions. Here is a glimpse into her profession, values and aspirations:

1. As a Hispanic and a woman, what is it like to work for NGA or the federal government in general?

It is definitely challenging, but at the same time it has its benefits. As a Hispanic and woman I feel that I have to constantly prove myself and my technical abilities, which at times can be challenging. However, being one of the very few Hispanic women, people notice you. For example, sometimes I am talking in the elevator at work and someone recognizes my voice (accent!) from the conferences calls. My agency is huge, therefore being noticed is a great benefit. Also, by knowing another language, I have been able to help my Agency with several translations which have provided me exposure to different organizations.

2. What has been your biggest accomplishment and your biggest challenge at NGA?

As most Hispanics the “language barrier” has definitely been my biggest challenge. Even though I am fluent in English, it took time to feel comfortable with the language. In order to compensate for that, since I moved to the United States, I started asking my co-workers to correct me when I am saying or writing something incorrectly.
I recently earned an award for “Making Information Technology (IT) Happen”. As a Hispanic woman in the IT business, this was a major accomplishment not only for me, but hopefully for other Hispanic women in the talent pipeline.

3. In your current job, what are you passionate about or what makes you thrive?

I am extremely passionate about working with our International Partners. I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, and in this job I feel I can do that without leaving the building. Also I really like and thrive working in high-pace environments. This job is full of emergencies and surprises, which is something I truly enjoy.

4. What are your short term and long term goals?

My short-term career goals include supporting one of the international sites for a couple of years. I believe that the knowledge gained from working side-by-side with users and customers will be invaluable for both my career and for the Agency. As far as long term goals, I see myself leading an IT department of one of the major Intelligence Agencies or as an Small Business Owner for an IT company.

5. You were recently highlighted in NGA during Hispanic Heritage Month, could you tell me about that experience and what it means to you?

It was such an amazing privilege that meant so much to me. I always try to make sure I represent my heritage the best way I possibly can, and make way for other Hispanics to thrive in the workplace as well. I’m aware of how my actions can positively or negatively impact people’s perspective of other Hispanics. Therefore, being recognized in this manner was a clear indication that all that hard work is paying off, and that my performance will not only open opportunities in my career but also in the careers of other Hispanics.

6. What work opportunities or internships were instrumental in your professional development?

The opportunity that was the instrumental in my professional development was being selected for the Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP) for General Electric (GE). GE is a great company, and this was an elite program, which was very hard to get into at the time. It was a two-year rotational program in which you had to move every 6 months to different manufacturing sites and to new roles that required different skills. Simultaneously, you had to be taking numerous leadership and management trainings and certifications in order to successfully complete the program. This job was not only extremely challenging, but also it was my first opportunity out of college. Being able to succeed at that job was a great confidence builder for all of my future jobs. Throughout this program I learned not to be scared when new opportunities came my way and taught me to be aggressive and take more risks on new roles.

7. Who is your role model?

My mother. She has always been a source of inspiration and support to me. I always saw her as such a strong, intelligent, and independent woman and I wanted to be someday like her. Having such a strong woman raising me was a true blessing and I hope to always make her proud.

8. What advice would you give to recent graduates interested in following a career path similar to yours?

Believe in yourself or no one else will. In college, as a Mechanical engineering student, I was one of the only women in the classroom and at work in most meetings and projects I am one of the only women (and Hispanic!) in the room. With time I taught myself to believe that I belong in every room and I encourage all young female students and professionals to do the same. You have to teach yourself to be confident in any room you walk in. You are not in that room by coincidence; you are there because of your dedication and hard work. Always know that you belong there just as much as anybody else and understand that the only thing holding you back is you. This was an advice from a woman I admire a lot, that I will never forget.

9. Any final thoughts or advice about life or values?

My best advice in regards to life is very simple…“Just do it!”
Thinking about doing a Master’s Degree? Just do it!
Thinking about taking a trip (that you can afford)? Just do it!
Thinking about taking a new job outside of your comfort zone? Just do it!
Make educated decisions, but never overthink a decision because of how hard it will be. There will never be a right time for these types of decisions, the right time is NOW.

Thank you Ileana for inspiring us and for representing the Puerto Rican diaspora with exemplary work and leadership!

UPRAA grants Sixteen Scholarships to an Outstanding Group of Students in Puerto Rico!

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

upraa_scholOn Thursday, September 20th, 2016, the Association of University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends Abroad (UPRAA) awarded sixteen scholarships to a group of outstanding students who have demonstrated superior academic performance and financial need.

During an inspiring ceremony in the Botanic Garden of the University of Puerto Rico, the Interim President, Dr. Celeste Freytes Gonzalez, congratulated the students for their admirable efforts and praised UPRAA for their continued support to education. Along with our special guests were Academic Deans from Universities throughout the island, Mr Joe Vila, Community Outreach Manager of the Ford Fund, and several family members and friends.

Ten of these students received special scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Fund and six others by contributions from Dominion Power.

4b2376eb-2cc3-4b44-af8c-015de372c3c3 28de390d-fdb7-4fef-9eb9-4a044d4d6da2
Janairis Colón
Sports Therapy, UPR Ponce

Josean Luciano Vázquez
Biotechnology, UPR Ponce

Stephanie C. Ruiz
Audiology, Ciencias Médicas

Lorraine N. Vélez Torres
Microbiology, Ciencias Médicas

Tatiana M. Matos Gascot
Pharmacy, Ciencias Médicas

Michelle N. Telón Sosa
Architecture, UPR Rio Piedras

Gretchen M. Carrasquillo Ramos
IT, UPR Rio Piedras

Hecbel M. Rodriguez Crespo
Clinic Psychology, UPR Rio Piedras

Valerie N. Rodriguez Hernández
Psychology Investigative, Rio Piedras

Paola J. Castello López
Chemistry, UPR Arecibo

Edgar O. Avilés Rosa
Animal Science, UPR Mayagüez

Camille Amaro-Berrocal
Marine Science, UPR Mayagüez

Jose Juan Fontán Pagán
Civil Engineering, UPR Mayagüez

Keishla Vallejo Muñoz
Civil Engineering, UPR Mayagüez

Alanis P. Delgado
Biotechnology, UPR Mayagüez

Doris M. Laguer
Geology, UPR Mayagüez

UPRAA was represented by four of its Board members: Dr Franklin A. Carrero, Dr. Jacob Lozada, Mr Richard A. Negron and Mr Jose O. Torres. “Today, our scholarship program offers students some badly needed relief from the troubled economic environment in Puerto Rico,” said Richard Negron, UPRAA Board member. UPRAA is doing its part to help our youth in Puerto Rico by giving back. “I hope that when these students reach the top of the success ladder they, too, emulate our example by reaching out and helping others,” said Richard.

Jose Torres, UPRAA’s Vice President, expressed how proud one feels when you are afforded the opportunity to support students in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States through scholarships. He asked all UPR Alumni and Friends to join UPRAA in support of our youth and to build a better tomorrow by giving back.

UPRAA thanks the Ford Fund and Dominion Power for their generosity and expresses very special thanks to Ms. Gloria Rodriguez, CEO of Comunicad and her Staff for their continued support and expertise provided during the coordination of this event.

Visit upraa.org to become a member and support our efforts. Also see the pictures of the scholarships awards ceremony coming soon!

UPRAA Salutes our Veterans!

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

unnamed_1...for their selfless service to our nation and honors one of its own:  Lieutenant Colonel (US Army Retired), Dennis O. Freytes.

It is with great pleasure that UPRAA recognizes one of its own: UPR alumnus, Retired Lieutenant Colonel, Dennis O. Freytes.  Colonel Freytes was recently inducted into the Florida Veteran’s Hall of Fame for his distinguished military and civic service.  On 9 November 2016, the Florida Governor and his cabinet recognized his efforts at a well-attended ceremony at the Florida Capitol Building.  The Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame recognizes and honors those military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the state of Florida through civic, business, public service or other pursuits.

Colonel Freytes has worked as an executive, manager, and as advisor in business, government, non-profits, and community organizations.  He is a community leader serving on community governing boards in support of our elders, youth, families, Veterans, small businesses and national, state, and local government.  During his military service, he commanded Infantry, Special Forces, Airborne, Medical, Engineer, Readiness Group, and ROTC Units on security and humanitarian missions protecting and defending our Freedom.

Colonel Freytes has received various appointments to Governing Boards, served on Government Transition Advisory Committee for American Veterans, and currently serves on Congressional and local Mayor’s American Veterans Advisory Councils.  He holds Master Degrees in Public Administration and in Human Resources, a Bachelor in Business Administration, and served as a Professor of Military Science in the University of Puerto Rico, educating our future leaders.

Colonel Freytes is an example to emulate. We congratulate him on his achievements and thank him for his great service to our nation.

Former UPRAA President Distinguishes Himself As A Nationwide Political Analyst

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carlosCarlos Mercader is the current Executive Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a D.C. based advocacy organization. He served as Vice-President of UPRAA during the 2012-2014, having served as vice president of the organization the previous the previous two years.  Carlos has distinguished himself as a sought after analyst at Univision, Telemundo, CNNE and other national news organizations. His insights and knowledge of national political issues as well as the Washington, DC political scene has been instrumental to the success of his presentations.  Most recently, Carlos appeared on primetime TV analyzing the recent Presidential debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates. His facility to get to the core of the issues, his great presence before the cameras, and his ability to provide an unvarnished analysis distinguishes him above the rest.

UPRAA is proud of Carlos’ accomplishments and he is proud of UPRAA.  According to Carlos: “I am very proud of all the great work our premier organization in Washington, DC (UPRAA) is doing in support of Puerto Rico and its youth.  The $145,000 plus in scholarships, which UPRAA has awarded to outstanding Hispanic students who have demonstrated superior academic performance and financial need is the best testament of this great organization’s commitment, dedication, and mission focus.  I am very proud of my tenure as President of UPRAA and our many accomplishments.  I will continue to support UPRAA.”

Carlos R. Mercader is an attorney in civil and international human rights law. He serves as Associate Counsel of an international public law firm that specializes in advocating for fundamental human rights at multilateral organizations. He previously worked at the United States Attorney’s Office of Washington DC in the litigation of employment related matters involving the federal government. He also worked at the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

Carlos has a BA in marketing from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus and a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico Law School in Ponce.

UPRAA’s 10th Washington, DC, Hispanic Charity Golf Tournament – A Resounding Success!

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

On Friday, September 23rd, 2016, the Association of University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Friends Abroad (UPRAA) celebrated its tenth annual charity golf tournament.

“Our Washington DC Hispanic Charity Golf Tournament, held at Joint Base Andrews, brought a record number of sponsors, players, and Wounded Warriors to play golf and enjoy a beautiful day of friendship, camaraderie, and giving back. We were generously supported by great sponsors like AARP, Andrews Federal Credit Union, Comunicad, DLA Piper, ITDG of Puerto Rico, CSC, Novetta, ESPN, HP, Grant Thornton and ESPN. They made this event possible and we look forward to our continued partnership,” said Alida Rodriguez, President of UPRAA.

According to Alida, whose leadership and commitment was instrumental to the success of this event, “the tournament brought a record number of new sponsors and all current sponsors committed to supporting the event in 2017.  And for the first time ever, we had an impressive number of out of state participants from Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, and Puerto Rico.

Participants were blessed with a perfect day of golf among UPR alumni, friends, and supporters to raise funds in support of UPRAA’s scholarship fund, which has awarded over $145,000 in scholarships to outstanding young Hispanic students who have demonstrated academic merit and financial need.  The Air Force One fly-over the players was the “icing on the cake.”

According to Rob Alvarez, UPRAA’s Treasurer and Golf Tournament Committee member, the highly successful tournament increased UPRAA’s scholarships funds by 25%. "This year has been a record-breaking event. We exceeded our planned objectives for the Golf Tournament” added Rob.

According to Robert Negron, CEO of ITDG of Puerto Rico, who sponsored the tournament for the first time and travelled from PR to participate in this event: “this was one of the best golf tournaments I have ever played.  The business relationships and personal contacts I made during the event will be of great value to my business in Puerto Rico.  Sponsoring this event was a very smart business investment for me and my firm!”

"When you are afforded the opportunity to support our Hispanic students in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States through scholarships, it makes us feel extremely proud. I ask all UPR Alumni and Friends to support our youth and help us build a better tomorrow by giving back." said Jose Torres, UPRAA’s Vice President.

UPRAA thanks its volunteers: Luis Bernal, Franklin Carrero-Martínez, Dave Sánchez, Barbara Glasser, Frank Rentas, José Torres, Irene María Rivera-Goyco, Álida Rodríguez-Rodríguez, Katia Henríquez, and Ángela De Jesús for their dedication and hard work to ensure the success of this great charity event.

If you would like see the pictures of the tournament please click here!

Jacob Lozada, PhD
UPRAA Charity Golf Tournament Committee

UPRAA is an IRS approved 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization, incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Activities in Washington DC recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin

Each year, Hispanic Heritage month is recognized from September 15 through October 15. The 2016 Theme: "Embracing, Enriching, and Enabling America" invites us to reflect on Hispanic Americans' vitality and meaningful legacy in our Nation's cultural framework.

The Presidential proclamation is available at

Events of Interest:

Location: American History Museum, Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza
Event: Hispanic Heritage Month Festival: Latinidad: Looking into Latina Women's American Experiences
Date: Saturday, 17 September
Time: 1100-1600
Celebrations, Culinary Arts, Demonstrations, Kids & Families, Performances,
Shopping/Book Signing

Location: National Air and Space Museum
Event: Hispanic Heritage Family Day: Innovators in Aviation and Space
Date: Saturday, 8 October
Time: 1000-1500
Visitors will learn about the contributions of Latin Americans to aviation
and space exploration, meet Hispanic scientists and engineers, and
participate in bilingual activities.

Location: National Portrait Gallery, Kogod Courtyard
Event: Hispanic Heritage Month Family Day
Date: Saturday, 15 October
Time: 1130-1500
Visitors can create art, listen to music and dance in celebration of
Hispanic heritage in America.

Location: Smithsonian Museum
Event: Smithsonian American Art Museum Highlights Tour
Date: Saturday, 15 October
Time: 1230-1315 or 1400-1445

Location: Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
Date: 22 September 2016
Time: 11:30-1:00 pm
Location: Brucker Hall, The US Army Band, Building 400 Cultural Performance: US Army Blues (Mini Concert) Point of Contact: MSG Kenny Kang and SFC
William Reynolds
Phone: (703) 696-2964/8729

Location: Fort Meade
Date: 28 September 2016
Time: 1130-1300
Location: McGill Training Center
Keynote Speaker: Mayor Pro Tem Mr. Bob J. Archuleta
Cultural Performance: Ms. Anna Menendez, Young Audiences, MD
Point of Contact: SFC Derrick Chambers
Phone: (301) 677-6687

Location: Fort Belvoir
Date: 13 October 2016
Time: 1130-1300
Location: Fort Belvoir Community Center
Keynote Speaker: Susana Castillo, Deputy Press Secretary, DC Mayor's Office of Communication
Phone: (703) 805-2288

For further information, see Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute
Hispanic Heritage Month presentation at

2016 Combined Federal Campaign Now Open

UPRAA > Articles by: upraa-admin


Join your fellow federal workers who are making extraordinary things possible with their CFC donations. Support UPRAA #44202 by making a generous contribution to our Hispanic Scholarship Fund through the Combined Federal Campaign. Together we can help Hispanic students achieve their educational dreams and aspirations. We can make it possible!




  • Contribute online at www.cfcnca.org or complete a paper pledge form.
  • You can donate through payroll deduction, the most convenient way to give, or by credit/debit card, eCheck, cash, or check.
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