Meet our Panel: Hispanic Heritage Month

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Meet our Panel: Hispanic Heritage Month

Categories: News, YWCA Blog

Meet our Panelists & Moderator

Giovanna Genard, M.Ed.

Giovanna Genard is Assistant Vice President for Strategic Communication and Chief Marketing Officer at Old Dominion University, where she leads the institution’s innovative marketing and global brand strategy, storytelling, web, and digital marketing initiatives.

As an inclusive leader, she volunteers to close the equity gap, create a diverse talent pipeline and promote social mobility, helping establish ODU’s national Social Mobility Symposium and global programs such as High-Achieving Latinxs in Engineering & Science (HALES) and Remote Experience for Young Engineers and Scientists (REYES). In 2017, she was invited to join the Forbes Communications Council, a national group of respected communication leaders and executives, and in 2019, the CIVIC Leadership Institute. Giovanna collaborates regularly with non-profits and Latin American Embassies in the U.S., has been a guest speaker at state and national conferences, and serves on the executive boards of the Virginia Higher Education Broadcasting Consortium and the YWCA South Hampton Roads. In 2020, she was awarded the Seton Hill Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award.

Dr. Johnny Garcia photo

Johnny Garcia, Ph.D.

Inspired by his parents and grandparents and dedicated to a life of service for family, community, and the technology industry, Dr. Garcia is Founder and CEO of SimIS Inc., SimIS Holdings LLC, Nimbus Health Systems, Cativa Health, Prasili LLC, Sticks Golf, Garcia ES LLC and Health Care Simulations LLC, and owner and investor in numerous other businesses.

He has become an innovation leader in the modeling and simulation and healthcare industries. He serves area youth through his robust internship programs. His philosophy of making a difference permeates his many service activities; numerous board memberships, STEM program development and, volunteering service to local, state, and international organizations, and mentoring newly started small businesses and nonprofits.

He serves on numerous boards (President of the Hispanic Chamber, Vice-Chair Hampton Roads chamber, Portsmouth Partnership, Begin Again Foundation, Chair Hampton Roads workforce council, Chair ODU College of Engineering, Chair ODU VMASC, Boys and Girls Club, Star base Victory, Communities in Schools, Portsmouth Athletic League, First Chesapeake Robotics, and many others.

Dr. Garcia served 5 years in the U.S. Navy as an enlisted operations specialist second class petty officer and worked in the industry for 15 years before founding his first business SimIS Inc.

Dr. Garcia is a known leader in the community and his service is his compass.  Dr. Garcia has degrees from Old Dominion University (PhD), St. Leo College (BA and BS), and the Florida Institute of Technology (MS and MBA).

He is the proud father of a wonderful set of 16-year-old twin daughters – Hope and Faith – and married to his lovely wife of 31 years, Lorena.

Elizabeth Torres, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Torres is the founder and Executive Director of the Hispanic Resource Center of Coastal Virginia. The mission of the Hispanic Resource Center of Coastal Virginia is to advance the social-economic conditions of the Hispanic/Latinx community. We serve as a bridge to the resources and current services within the community that provides education training support services leadership development business development and advocacy to a population already disadvantaged and marginalized in receiving accurate and timely information about health concerns community resources and information often because of language access and social-economic factors. We advocate for equality by bridging the disparity gaps within the Hispanic /Latinx community. She is also the owner and Chief Editor of Que Pasa Virginia Magazine an Equitable Diverse and Inclusive Publishing and the owner of Maximus Roofing Contractors, LLC.

Olga Torres Baker

Ms. Torres Baker has resided in Virginia Beach, Virginia for the past 11 years. Her broad work experience within the Hispanic community and her ability to keep an open mind about developing market trends enables her to be a great asset to her current and future clients and in her servant leadership roles.

She is a small business owner offering Spanish/English Interpreting, Translation, and Business Consulting services through Taína Consulting, LLC. For the past 5 years, she has supported the local Latin radio station – La Selecta Radio 103.3 FM / WVXX 1050 AM, to attract clients who wish to reach listeners from the Hispanic community through commercial content in Spanish. Ms. Torres Baker has worked in the interpreting and translation field for over fourteen years. She relishes putting her Spanish language skills to use and looks for opportunities to take on the type of work that challenges her to continue to grow as a professional.

Ms. Torres Baker previously owned and operated Metropolitan Insurance Options, Inc., an independent insurance agency in the Denver Metro area of Colorado. In 2005, she was recognized as Businesswoman of the Year by the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for her entrepreneurship and community volunteerism.

She served as President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Coastal Virginia (HCCCoVa; formerly HRHCC) for 5 years and under her leadership (August 2012 to December 2017), the Chamber experienced growth and visibility, fostered community engagement, collaborations, and strong partnerships with other local organizations and entities. In 2014 she was recognized by the Urban League of Hampton Roads Young Professionals with a Silver Star of Diversity Award and recognized as a Hispanic Trailblazer by the Norfolk Public Library, for her volunteer work through the Hispanic Chamber. In October of 2015, she joined the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Leadership Forum (HLF) of Hampton Roads, whose Mission is to “focus on development of leaders within the Hispanic community through education, the arts, and cultural engagement”, and currently serves as President. She was appointed to the City of Virginia Beach Minority Business Council in 2017 and currently serves as Chair. In July 2020 Ms. Torres Baker was also appointed to the Virginia Beach Arts & Humanities Commission. She also serves as a Board Member of the Green Run Collegiate Foundation and is a Member of the Dominion Energy CVOW Community Grassroots Advisory Council.

In the spring of 2016, Ms. Torres Baker completed a 12-week Board Development program and was president of its graduating class – The United Way of South Hampton Roads’ 20th Project Inclusion program. Some of her other volunteer experience includes the Virginia Beach Small Business Subcommittee, Hampton Roads Diversity & Inclusion Consortium, ERT Community Roundtable, and AARP Virginia since 2012. Her vision has been instrumental in establishing the Circle of Latinas of Hampton Roads, which serves as a resource to Spanish-speaking Latinas and their families through a public page on Facebook and a closed group with over 4,000 members. She is committed to partnerships and collaboration that support ongoing engagement in the Hispanic/Latinx community.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico until the age of thirteen, she is proud of her heritage and culture and has always volunteered with local Puerto Rican organizations wherever she has lived. On her free time, she loves traveling and spending time with her husband, their son and daughters, extended family, and especially their ten grandchildren. She enjoys gardening, working on her golf game, dancing, and spending time with dear friends, and she loves visiting her beloved Puerto Rico to spend time with her family there and continue to explore all its wonders.

Alexia Chavero, M.Ed.

Alexia received a Master of Education degree in Counseling and Guidance at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Alexia is currently working towards her Licensed Professional Counselor status as a Resident in Counseling in the state of Virginia. Alexia began with the YWCA in February of 2021 as a Crisis Intervention Specialist and was hired by our Counseling Department shortly after. She now serves as a counselor in the organization working with trauma survivors including children, teens, and adults. Before working with the YWCA Alexia was practicing trauma work with multiple populations. Her work includes guiding and supporting unaccompanied migrant children at the South Texas Border and grief and loss groups with children, teens, and adults. Alexia’s experience also expands to abuse and sexual assault work with children and their families. Her work at the university setting exposed her to different diagnoses and complex trauma cases including domestic violence. Alexia is passionate about the mental health field and loves to participate in advocacy projects. Her main goal is to provide a safe place for healing and exploration where self-love and self-advocacy become reachable. Alexia’s counseling approach is integrative. Her counseling techniques include Person-Centered, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Cognitive Processing Therapy. She enjoys adding Play-Therapy techniques to her sessions with the purpose of making the counseling relationship more comfortable and expressive.


Find the recorded webinar here!