Role Model Program

HISPA Role Model Program at Middle School Features Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz

PRESS RELEASE PERTH AMBOY, NJ – Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz spoke to 8th-graders at the William C. McGinnis School during a HISPA Role Model program on Tuesday, May 5.

Mayor Diaz, who addressed about 75 students in the bilingual program, was accompanied by Dr. Ivonne Diaz-Claisse, president of HISPA, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing professional Hispanic role models for young students. HISPA, which stands for Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement, held its national launch in September 2008 in New Jersey.

“I believe it’s very important for our youths to hear how others have overcome barriers throughout their lives and achieved success in their endeavors,” said Mayor Diaz. “I applaud HISPA for its efforts to reach out and make a difference in students’ lives.”

Mayor Diaz, a HISPA mentor, has been in office since July 1, 2008. She is the first woman to hold that office, and the first Puerto Rican woman elected mayor in New Jersey. Prior to taking office, Mayor Diaz, a dedicated community activist, spent 20 years in the banking industry where she started as a teller after graduating from high school.

“We are thrilled to have Mayor Diaz onboard as a HISPA mentor,” said Dr. Diaz-Claisse. “She is a great example of someone who set goals throughout her life to better the lives of those who live in her community, and she is an inspiration to our youth.”

Since its launch, HISPA’S Role Model Bureau has been providing support to educational programs across New Jersey. Mentors have shared their life stories – with an emphasis on educational achievements and professional accomplishments – during visits with more than 1500 students in numerous cities including New Brunswick, Paterson, West New York, Summit, Red Bank, Freehold and Passaic.

One of HISPA’s key strategies is to support existing educational programs in which at least half of the students are Hispanic. In Red Bank, HISPA is working with the school district’s new Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program under the direction of Laura Morana, school superintendent.

HISPA’s also partners with existing organizations that have mentoring programs. The organization is working with Hudson County-based Save Latin America’s “Reaching Our Dreams” program, which is run by Johnny Torres. In Summit, HISPA has teamed up with the YMCA’s Latino Leadership Institute, which is run by Janet Maulbeck, director of community development.

HISPA’s Role Model Bureau is a national network of role models and resources that showcases the participants’ educational experiences, careers, and ethnic backgrounds. HISPA, which has reached and surpassed its initial recruitment goal of 100 role models in New Jersey, encourages Hispanic professionals to become active role models by visiting schools and sharing their educational and career experiences with students in an effort to inspire academic performance and achievement.

The following is a partial list of organizations who have pledged to provide role models, as well as individuals who have joined HISPA’s efforts: Employee Resources Groups: AT&T – HACEMOS; Merck Hispanic Organization (MHO); PSE&G – ADELANTE; Chubb Hispanic and Latino Employee Network (CHLEN); Microsoft – HOLA; Johnson & Johnson – Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement (HOLA); Professional Organizations: National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) – NJ Chapter; Latinos in Information Science and Technology Association (LISTA) – NJ and NY Chapters; U.S. Hispanic Advocacy Association (USHAA); Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR); and Government: Perth Amboy (NJ) Mayor Wilda Diaz.

Dr. Diaz-Claisse’s professional background includes 10 years with AT&T Labs. The New Jersey resident holds a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico, a Masters in engineering from Cornell University, a Masters in mathematics from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Arizona State University.

HISPA’s goals are:
• To reduce the drop-out rates by targeting middle schools students and emphasizing the importance of higher education in each role model presentation.
• To further develop strategic alliances with employee resource groups, professional organizations and alumni networks in order to select, recruit and support a pool of role models.
• To become a one-stop resource that provides access to thousands of professional Hispanic role models willing to share their motivational stories on an ongoing basis to schools and community-based educational programs.
• To support and expand existing community-based educational programs with similar goals that have an existing need for a Hispanic pool of role models.
For more information, contact and visit For more information about Perth Amboy, visit Media representatives may contact Ivette Mendez at, or call 973.478.5400, Ext. 14.