Building Bridges Through Education names 2021-22 fellows

Jessica Ledesma. Courtesy West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The recently nationally recognized Building Bridges Through Education (BBTE) initiative of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has selected 32 individuals for its second annual BBTE Fellowship.

The BBTE Fellowship is a culturally relevant, early career placement and development pilot. The competitive, two-semester-long fellowship aims to assist talent and strengthen the diversity of the workforce pipeline in Michigan.

The BBTE Fellowship is designed as a competitive fellowship offering identity- and asset-based professional development co-led by BBTE industry partners.

It is divided into four cohorts that include business/STEM, health professions, nursing and social/public service. Fellows gain the tools and resources to strengthen their skills through hands-on experiences that enhance leadership, expand their network and ultimately help them become top Latinx professionals.

“During the historic year of 2020, we launched the inaugural BBTE Fellowship co-led by BBTE industry partners,” said Jessica Ledesma, BBTE program manager. “The development and launch of the fellowship showed amazing outcomes — BBTE moved from a 12% placement rate during the initiative’s first year to a 72% placement rate during the second year. We remain committed and dedicated to assist the next generation of Latinx leaders in Michigan and connect them to employers who see their assets and invest in their potential.”

Building Bridges Through Education is an initiative powered by the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to advance Michigan Latinx college talent by bridging college and career through career connections and development to help grow a dynamic and inclusive workforce in Michigan. BBTE is supported by the DTE Foundation and Wege Foundation, along with initiative partners Spectrum Health, Steelcase, Amway, Haworth, Bethany Christian Services, Grand Valley State University, Herman Miller, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Western Michigan University and the West Michigan Whitecaps.

The 2021-22 fellows and their degree programs and schools are listed here:


  • Adrian Carrasco, management information systems, Grand Valley State University
  • Andrea Pantoja, finance, Grand Valley State University
  • Brandon De Martinez, international relations/politics/French, University of Michigan
  • Ingrid Gomez, accounting, Western Michigan University
  • Jose Galvan, industrial operations engineering, University of Michigan
  • Kennia Cifuentes, economics, University of Michigan
  • Maribel Suarez Munoz, accounting/finance, Western Michigan University
  • Marisol Benitez, business administration, Ferris State University
  • Rebecca Herrera, economics and international studies, University of Michigan
  • Stella Rodriguez, applied mathematics, Grand Valley State University

Health professions

  • April Garcia, biomedical science, Grand Valley State University
  • Arely Fernandez, allied health sciences, Ferris State University
  • Brookelyn Lorenz, dental hygiene, Ferris State University
  • Elianai Orozco, human resource management/finance, Western Michigan University
  • Erick Guzman, biology, Western Michigan University
  • Fernando Garcia, accounting, Hope College
  • Guadalupe Luna Arroyo, biology/pre-med, Southwestern Michigan College
  • Isabel Guerra, behavioral neuroscience, Grand Valley State University
  • Sheila “Nikki” Castro, business administration, Grand Valley State University

Nursing fellows

  • Adamaris Rivera, nursing, Grand Valley State University
  • Jennifer Ayala, nursing, Grand Valley State University
  • Lauren Toledo, nursing, Grand Valley State University
  • Yareli Alvarez-Herrera, nursing, Davenport University

Social/public service fellows

  • Abylene Vargas-Leon, sociology and social work, University of Michigan
  • Clarissa Mata, political science, Michigan State University
  • Jazmin Martinez, global studies/Spanish, Hope College
  • Jessica Cortes, social work, Western Michigan University
  • Mariana Ramirez-Franco, business and communications, Aquinas College
  • Michelle Herrera, film, video and media studies/pre-advertising and promotion, Western Michigan University
  • Sydney Perez, sociology, University of Michigan
  • Susely Lopez-Salvatierra, criminal justice and communications, Western Michigan University
  • Yazmine Soto, education in mathematics, Ferris State University

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